Internet replaces TV
Big Brother, imported from The Netherlands in 2000, grew out to be a big hit during the first two editions on British television. Clones and spin-offs like Teen Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother saw the daylight shortly after, just like many other reality-based programs. After huge initial successes, the popularity of the Big Brother concept has slowly faded out, with the withdrawal of Celebrity Big Brother ? announced today ? as a so-far low. Question of today: which TV programs still motivate people to switch on their black box?
The answer turns out to be: quite few. DVDs and internet emissions are gaining ground. People who have a broadband connection at home often chose to buy a Freewire TV-license so they can watch regular TV on their computers. Television has shifted from being an institution to just another device for helping people getting access to data ? a device much less popular than for I-pods or even laptop computers. And the balance will tilt even further in the coming years. It`s no longer broadcasting corporations that set the schedule - it`s individual viewers who decide what to view, when, where and how.
..prefers not to miss Eastenders
For now, as I am told by Step (24), people mostly watch British and American comedy series via this next generation TV: Friends, Family Guy, or even films. News and events worth following on the spot, like the X-Factor final, are still watched live. The same goes for sports, which is available in abundance to people having access to Sky via a digital decoder.
News and news
Despite the rising popularity of the internet, the British public state channel BBC remains a reliable source of information. Many people watch the Breakfast News, normal news, News Evening or the continuous news feed at News24. The BBC website is equally popular with people who are looking for reliable information, whether that is in still images, entire news programs or just written reports. In fact, few people tune in to other sources of news supply. Dani?l (22) is an exception: `I spend as much time watching Al Jazeera International, just to have a broader view on the world news and to compare the two different ways of seeing things. The channels bring a lot of the same subjects, and both are considered quite impartial. But there are some minor differences that make it interesting to check it out.`
For people who are attached to the less formal news, the most likely option is `Have I got news for you` ( HIGNFY) ? a program hosted by comedians who constantly attempt to mock the news and make critical and ironic remarks about it. Even the frequent re-runs on weekday evenings draw substantial audiences and the format has been exported to different countries. All of those are located in Northern Europe: Sweden`s Snacka om Nyheter, Finland`s Uutisvuoto and The Netherlands` Dit was het nieuws. Since 2002, the program is hosted by a different presenter every week. The success of the program allegedly drew original presenter Angus Deayton to cocaine addition and prostitute visits, leading to the termination of his dismissal.
Zo? (22) tells me that TV audience interested in non-news about UK celebrities are served by a program called `Loose Women`. A panel consisting of four women discusses how celebs need to go on a diet and are mismanaging their relations or addictions. Hardly anybody wants to be caught watching it and the programs enjoy less social acceptance than widely available gossip papers and paparazzi magazines.
American talk shows are remarkably unpopular among young British people and the same applies to American soap series. Talk shows have local versions, but following scandals of guests showing up in more than one show and telling completely different stories, popularity has decreased to a minimum.
Australian soap series Neighbours does still keep viewers hooked, but the rest of `soap land` is occupied by British productions. Sin?ad (25, photo) is a big fan of locally produced Eastenders about a couple of families living in the London Area. `It`s not American, which is nice. Talking intelligence, it`s not really challenging material. It`s a bit of feel-good, you can watch it and think that your own life is not too bad in the end`, she explains with a smile.
A second soap series called Hollyoaks is very similar to Eastenders, but the actors are more handsome. `I guess many British people are after some sort of escapism. Watching this stuff is like reading a book, but without requiring any attention or concentration`, Sin?ad says. After telling about soap series, she is keen to add that she also frequently watches French international news channel TV5 or Channel 4 documentaries.
Ever since Pop Idol started, TV competitions have proved to be a winning format. Whether it`s best singers, best dancers, worst geeks with prettiest beauties, the best restaurant managers, TV competitions will be watched. The latest variant is called X-Factor but the differences with Pop-Idol are very slim. Most people watch it to laugh at poor performance rather than to cheer at talented people. Small clips of both extremes are likely to make it to video sharing website YouTube, where the term X-factor produces over 15,000 hits.
`Top Gear` and `Mighty Boosh` are two programs that still manage to feed people`s appetite for TV. Top Gear started out with two presenters testing new cars, but developed into an all round program that encompasses humour, challenges, random challenges and much more. During recent exhibitions, three producers of the program were invited to convert a car into something that would get them across the Channel to France. Main presenter Jeremy Clarkson was the only one who managed to reach the other side. Another challenge got co-host James May and Jermy Clarkson being the first to reach the magnetic North Pole by car.
Mighty Boosh is a program about two characters who work in a zoo. Hannah (18) and Alice (18) tell me that the two main actors play different roles, make fun out of each other and everybody else who appears in the show. The program is neither strictly related to any subject, nor to the news or to British society. The main link to real life is the main characters` love for a selected music stars. The Mighty Boosh shows were originally theatre plays, but ended up being available through different kind of media, including radio, TV and back to the theatre again. A large number of Mighty Boosh video clips is available online.
Faster than slowly, the internet is taking over the role television once had. Not just for viewing programs, but for people to manage their entire lives: making bank transfers, socialising person-to-person, group-to-group, downloading films and movies. Except for financial transactions ? so far ? the Facebook website allows people to create an online identity that may resemble real-life as closely as Second Life, but it does approach the point where people`s virtual and real lives are starting to become one. Formerly popular applications like hotmail.com, MSN and Yahoo Messenger, but even news websites and content exchange websites ? they have all been integrated into one at Facebook.com.
Thanks to the photo tag function, people can look for photos including their face within other people`s profiles. Some teenagers use Facebook`s search function to find out what they had been doing the night before ? when they were completely drunk, but without the appropriate privacy setting, everything about everybody is publicly available information, ready to be sold to anybody else. By massively signing up for Facebook, and keep feeding the system valuable information, the British population has created its own Big Brother, that over years to come may prove well mightier than any state surveillance camera system or wire tapping control.
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