I posted a month or so back about the lack of decent TV shows about travel on mainstream telly.

I was approached by a researcher looking for the 'next big travel TV idea' pre-Christmas and I've been meaning to post about it.

The reseacher worked for Endemol. We chatted on the phone. But that was as far as it went. I was told I wasn't what they were looking for as I sounded 'too posh'. She'd already viewed about 100 showreels and was getting pretty hacked off with Exec Producers telling her that 'No this person wasn't quite right.' Forget whether they actually knew what they were talking about.

It got me thinking. Media - TV shows in particular - is increasingly driven by the celeb presenter these days. The face is more important than the content. Find the next Jamie Oliver and pukka! You're sorted.

A new show on BBC 2 at the moment called Grow Your Own Drugs really made this clear to me. First in the series was last week - the second last night. And wow I hated it. I particularly dislike the presenter James Wong. He had all the elements you need these days for being a 'celeb TV presenter'... a bit quirky, very keen on his topic, good looking... but so unengaging, so NOT someone I'd ever imagine having a pint with or being interested to know more about. Presenters in my opinion should feel approachable... normal. 

Caitlin Moran writing in the Times this weekend was more explicit:

How awful a presenter Wong is. I'm not apt to be negative,
but his absurdly self-satisfied brand of cosseted eco-smuggery - compounded
with a kind of Naked Chef-esque thumbs-up blokedom - is so potent that my
husband came into the room ten minutes into the show and said: “Ugh! Who is
this arse?” without even looking at the screen.

And that's the disappointment.

Quality content is being superceded by the cult of the personality. (Oz & James Drink to Britain, Dan Cruickshank's whatever it's called etc. Gok Wan takes off people's clothes or whatever, Trinnie and Susannah pinch your flabby bits et etcetcetce).

Is it to do with the need to do things faster and cheaper? If you can find a personality to carry a concept, you can cut out a big chunk of the hard work - and the cost too. Far easier to get some 'expert' to wheel out an opinion than to do some real research and spend time creating an idea based on proper data. Far easier to use a 'name' to sell a concept rather than develop something that stands on its own merit.

The internet and 24 hour news are driving this. (Along with the credit crunch). We want immediate content. No time to stop, research and analyse. Just pull in someone who 'knows what they are talking about' and ask their opinion. As if that really guarantees quality?

Any proper journalist will tell you that quality journalism comes from the grunty work of thorough research. Real facts are what you hang a story on, not a quirky presenter that the blokes might want to be and the ladies will fancy. Will the internet coupled with our obsession with pseudo celebrity kill off quality TV and print media for good?

It could easily happen.

[PS: Any TV execs reading this? I'm available to develop quality travel TV concepts. I would like to present them too but I promise I won't sound like a cockney or have a stupid haircut or be desparate to get noticed...]

3 thoughts on “Forget celebs – give me real facts!

  1. Ha, great post. I watch Rough Guides on 5 (thank you Sky+!). Not that great, but at least it has some content.

    For what it's worth, I'd watch you on TV. Although "Gok Wan takes off people's clothes" does sound very good too. :)

  2. Radio 4 is the truth, the light, and the way. It has Excess Baggage, which can be interesting, although I have to admit I don't listen to it very much.

    James Twong is too ugly for the radio. And anyway, doesn't the word 'ethnobiologist' just make you want to kick the nearest person in the goolies?

    We really need a decent travel show; someone who goes to countries people actually visit, talks about the culture, the history, places of interest, and genuinely helps people get the most out of their paltry 5 weeks of annual leave. It's all very well going all National Geographic on yo' ass - but while that's interesting to watch, there really is a niche for honest travel journalism for the everyman. And not the crapola you always see, which is just one big advertisement for holiday spots and talks a whole load of boll-di-rollox. Send me an intelligent, erudite tourist and I'll follow his every word. Show me Craig Doyle in a pair of blue swimming trunks and I'll calmly switch the telly off with a mallet.

  3. Hi Jeremy I completely agree and get equally frustrated.

    Is it in part Big Brother and reality TV in general that had a major contibution to the idea, for many at the lowest common denominator, that as long as you are on TV you are important? Is this why we see now that anyone that is trotted out to do a TV show must be an expert ?... bah

    People often say 'Content is King' but really I feel we should allow 'Great content is King'. Great content, as you say, is content that is well researched and backed up by solid facts and quality journalism.

    Much of the rest of the content, unfortunately instead of engaging, enlightening and inspiring us only has the effect of crowding out space and impede our ability to fing the good stuff.

    Off the top of my head, maybe a Digg like feature on TV's (not switching channels) where you could actually demote content. So if it gets enough negative votes it falls below the normal viewing thresh hold?

    Or the TV stations publish their whole program guide for the month, so as we watch, the things we select and view, in their entirety and vote for, personalise our viewing options for the future? The you and others could completely eradicate James W from your futures and those who wanted him could see more like him...

Comments are closed.