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Fox Treats Viewers With Contempt

September 4, 2011

We were promised an arts channel. Fox used to have one. But we end up with something called STVDIO which runs pop. The bio Channel tonight runs four episodes each of Judge Judy and Peoples’ Court, not even pretending to present biographical content. Oh, and Animal Emergency. Yes, on a biography channel. Doesn’t matter. Nobody in this outfit is charged with quality control. Treat viewers like fools. The History Channel is running Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide. Apparently about sightings of mysterious creatures around the world. No decent documentary in sight, at least one that we haven’t seen 10 times before.

On another channel there’s Psychic Sally and Wife Swap USA.

Programming of this order is a rip-off, a dumbing down, a breach of contract. And it is the most shameful area of the Australian media. It begs a shake-up, perhaps one spearheaded by an inquiry.

If the cabinet has not the guts to take this on as a simple measure of consumer affairs then they should stop whingeing about the way News Limited newspapers treat them. They are not serious about media power and its abuse.

If there is another News Limited article attacking the ABC then there is one response required: tear out a page from any monthly Foxtel program and offer it as evidence of the alternative. Thank God for public broadcasting. Double the ABC’s budget.

I’m currently collecting ideas for a tightening of broadcasting laws as they govern pay TV. I intend to put them to the ALP, Green Party members and independents.

20 Comments
  1. Chunkyphat permalink
    September 4, 2011 7:39 pm

    Bob, I agree with you about Fox however why don’t you do yourself a favour and go and see some jazz.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      September 4, 2011 7:44 pm

      Sure, if it’s good. Jazz vocalists I like very much. You won’t get it on Fox, of course. They might have to pay for it.

  2. Adam Taylor permalink
    September 4, 2011 7:52 pm

    I get to see a bit of Channel 604 (FOX News), Australian TV and especially its political coverage seems to only be able to continue to degenerate..

  3. September 4, 2011 7:53 pm

    The simply solution is not to subscribe to pay Television, especially anything coming from Murdoch (apart from the Simpson). I would never pay for tv viewing, hell we pay already by the amount of commericals we have to sit through.

  4. cobbs permalink
    September 4, 2011 7:57 pm

    Pay tv is a rip off. There is not enough good content to fill 5 free to air channels , let alone 100 channels. My friend in the US has 300 channels and its hard to find anything good. I would never get it.

  5. September 4, 2011 7:58 pm

    It’s sad stuff. And, Foxtel bought the broadcast rights to the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, but I don’t even know if they are showing them.
    http://forums.thedailyshow.com/?page=ThreadView&thread_id=35566 is a good indication of the way these audiences feel – firm support for your initiative, I would say.

  6. September 4, 2011 8:36 pm

    Get a digital video recorder – set it to record things you want to watch, and watch them when you feel like it.

    I’m off to watch a few episodes of “The Hollowmen”.

  7. John D permalink
    September 4, 2011 8:41 pm

    My wife constantly watches the reality TV dross that is on Foxtel. It gives me a headache even listening to it. I even delay going to bed at night until she has finished watching that rubbish. But heaven forbid if the satellite signal is down due to rain or wind.

    The only way to find decent programming is look through the foxtel TV guide. It is time consuming but you may find at least two or three programs each week worth watching.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      September 4, 2011 8:46 pm

      All repeats, I’m afraid. Their business model apparently prevents them spending money on new programs.

  8. September 4, 2011 8:56 pm

    With pay TV services of stupefyingly poor quality in Australia, it’s little wonder that we’re among the largest downloaders of TV programming via BitTorrent in the world.

  9. September 4, 2011 9:14 pm

    Hi Bob, This is one of the first times I’ve noticed someone complaining in public about the pay TV content. We started with Austar in about 2000 and the History Channel, which was my favourite – it would have programs with Simon Schama and the like, i.e. genuine history. Then, about three or four years ago it all changed and the History, Discovery, National Geographic changed to ‘macho’ type stuff. Suddenly there were programs like Megastructures of the Sea, Megatanks, Megaplanes, Bikey Wars, Mega Bikey Wars, World’s Worst Prisons, World’s Worst Megaprisons etc. I’m a knockabout kind of bloke, but give it a break fellas. I became a dvd collector, but I still pay my pay tv bill in the hope things will change.

  10. Rebecca permalink
    September 4, 2011 9:17 pm

    I fully support this campaign Bob. I am a reluctant Foxtel subscriber because it’s the only way I can see my team’s AFL games that aren’t played in Melbourne or on free to air. National Geographic channel is a pet gripe – I don’t know what programs like Megafactories, Megastructures, Air Crash Investigation etc are doing on it…. I’m sure there’s plenty of testosterone-fuelled viewing on the other channels. The AFL’s $1bn+ tv rights deal for 2012 onwards will see the number of live games broadcast on Foxtel increase from four to nine. Not all free to air games will be live. So more incentive for AFL fans to take up a Foxtel subscription. Godspeed.

  11. Chris Cudmore permalink
    September 5, 2011 6:47 am

    Bob,
    I don’t watch ‘pay TV’ but have a real issue with some of the commercial stations who NEVER run programs in accord with the printed time schedule. You can seldom rely on the ability to watch succesive programs on different channels. Viewers always have to compromise at the apparent behest of the advertisers. Also worthy of any media revew?

  12. September 5, 2011 10:31 am

    go for it Bob! I am behind you 1000% on this one. Add to it that the old free to air chanels have also become worse over the years, especially with regard to playing recent film releases (ie they don’t). This seemed to have something to do with viewers switiching to pay TV so ch 7, 10 etc stopped playing quality films … so it’s a vicious circle all round.

  13. Anthony Porter permalink
    September 5, 2011 11:38 am

    I’m not very aware of what Fox provides, or what they have put in writing when you signed up, but if they have reneged on a deal, I would would be seeking legal opinion.

  14. Stephen Hill permalink
    September 5, 2011 4:10 pm

    Bob, I agree with you on the history and biography channels on Foxtel – but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is the insecurities of the channel programmers thinking they need to chase ratings – leading to a situation much like a snake chasing its own tale. STUDIO is run by SBS – it has at times had some promising content – but as you mentioned it probably doesn’t have the resources to purchase a wider gamut of material. If I was to mention one things they had on – the American theatre productions were excellent – Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”, Pinter’s “The Homecoming”, O’Neill’s “Iceman Cometh” – they used to have a day focused on literature,a day on theatre, a day of archiecture and design, a day on music – but they seemed to have shifted from that format.

    I agree with the people who say purchase a DVD recorder – it is the way to save yourself from the endless cooking and lifestyle programs that like cane-toads are even migrating onto the public TV stations.

    Mind you one little bit of good fortune, was watching A-PAC (C-SPAN) just before going to sleep and I discovered they are running on excellent historical program called the Contenders about presidential candidates that never made high office that had a big influence on the political landscape. Over 14 weeks it Includes Henry Clay, Williams Jennings Bryan, Thomas Dewey, Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, Ross Perot. I watched the historical overview they offered, and I’m hooked. It’s all on the C-SPAN web-site – I’m hoping it will be on A-PAC but I don’t know.

    http://thecontenders.c-span.org/

  15. Julian Smith permalink
    September 5, 2011 6:07 pm

    Foxtel is a good example of how Murdoch dirties and dumbs down everything he touches.

    If there is nothing you want – cancel your subscription.

    If there are programs you do want (special sports, music, cooking, etc):
    1 Use a program search tool to identify them in advance
    2 Set your PVR / IQ recorder to record them
    3 Watch them at your leisure

    Change from watching what is broadcast to what you want to watch and ignore the rest.

    Expand your use of Bittorrent and downloads

    Good luck

  16. Brian permalink
    September 5, 2011 8:44 pm

    Totally agree with Bob’s comments and thats part of the reason why I dont subscribe to pay TV, There is no just enough relevant material on pay TV for an intelligent adult. The most popular programs on pay TV are invariably for children. Free to air can be interesting at times, for example, when they broadcast speeches from writer’s conferences.

  17. EdithK permalink
    September 5, 2011 9:19 pm

    The best thing that has happened to my documentary/quality film viewing is getting a VPN to provide an American ISP address and a Netflix streaming account for $USD 8 a month. I mean real documentaries – foreign-language as well as English (though predominantly American of course.) In recent times I have watched quality docos on the government of Fujimori in Peru, the American beer distribution system (no really, it was pretty interesting), the history of whaling, the decision by the Illinois governor to commute all death row sentences on his way out, gymnasts in North Korea, histories of Huey Long, Elizabeth Cady Stanton/Susan B Anthony, the Senate run of Oliver North, the life and career of Lee Atwater, a heap of PBS films on various topics, bios of the musicians Harry Nillsen and Phil Ochs, Ken Burns’ four hour doco on Jack Johnson. The list literally goes on and on and that is just the docos not the features.

    An upstanding public figure like yourself of course would not seek to get around territorial copyright restrictions this way (I am paying the same amount a US citizen would pay so I feel less bad about it being piracy) but the complete unavailability of any equivalent here needs serious looking at.

  18. Scott permalink
    September 7, 2011 7:36 am

    Netflix is already starting to undermine the US cable companies. The average US citizen loathes their cable company with a passion and Netflix will whiteant the American cable revenues.

    Expect that News Limited (er, I mean the government) will ban ISP’s and arrest people for using VPN’s to get around Netflix’s geoblock. It will do a lot to sink Foxtel otherwise.

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