Painless Panorama

March 16, 2010

My wife claims that I spend more time talking to the TV than I do talking to her. This may be because I occasionally get the last word with the TV as I have failed to develop a remote control for her, but I have more sense than to mention that to her. In any case, she’s wrong as most of my ‘talking’ to the TV is in fact talking {i}at{/i} the TV – and an awful lot of it is shouting. For example, and especially for irony fans, I tend to drown out {i}Grumpy Old Men{/i} with loud objections to the fact that, no matter how grumpy, half the pundits are nowhere near old. (I actually spend much longer talking to my computer than to either my wife or the TV – and it’s nothing to do with Skype, it is just that violent threats seem to improve the processing speed.) I accept however that, whatever the heir to the throne may say, talking to (or at) inanimate objects is not a sign of a healthy mental state and I am hoping to stop – after the General Election and the World Cup obviously, and maybe after I have migrated to Windows 7.

Since any TV programme about an issue where I have some knowledge is likely to drive me half mad with its oversimplifications and inaccuracies, Monday night’s {i}Panorama{/i} seemed pretty well guaranteed to lead to a trip to the asylum, mumbling incoherently en route about Russ Conway and tape-to tape. The programme was devoted to file-sharing, its effect on the music industry and the possible repercussions for file-sharers if the Digital Economy Bill is passed and all its ancillary powers are activated. It took me a week in intensive care to recover from accidentally watching {i}Judge John Deeds{/i}, so I feared the worst.

To my astonishment, I only shouted at presenter Jo Whiley once and there were only two tirades. The first was directed at parents who thought it was OK not to have the foggiest idea what their teenage children did when using the family wi-fi. The second was directed at the Manchester student who could not see the point of copyright holders throttling her Internet connection {i}because{/i} it was making her life a misery (do they do degrees in solipsism now?).

I actually thought it was as balanced a report as one could hope for in 29 minutes. The criticism is that it was so intent on being balanced that one would struggle to make sense of it if coming to the subject cold, and would be little the wiser if coming to the subject warm. There were very few comparative figures (I don’t actually remember any) and figures without context tell you nothing. The programme was dominated by the usual suspects stating the case with which most readers of this blog post will be familiar – last chance saloon for music and creativity on the one hand, and a waste of time and effort which also uprooted music’s new great hope on the other. Moreover, no hard questions were asked or Paxman-like challenges made– not even when Louis Walsh did the bit about record shops closing all over Britain. (Come to think of it, I asked him a question then and I notice that he did not respond.)

I might have mumbled a bit every time Jo Whiley simpered at Roy Stride from Scouting for Girls and I did loudly wonder about the fact that the programme seemed to focus only on music when it was apparent from its own investigation that DVD sales and film attendance were just as much threatened. But overall, I was delighted to discover that I had not the slightest sore throat and I appear this morning to be just as sane as normal. Now I wish I had shouted at it a little more because it was an opportunity to elucidate which was not exploited to the full. But I am not wholly unappreciative of the difficulties involved in covering the subject – overall, it was a job well done.

If you missed the show and want to catch up by watching on iplayer or want to see what the edited public comments look like, the Panorama web page is at