Cleaning house time for television

If you think much of British television swims in a swamp of distrust, as I think it does, you ought to read the text of the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture delivered by Jeremy Paxman on Friday night at the Edinburgh International TV festival.

Paxman takes a typical head-on approach to the topic of trust in television following months of scandals that have beset the four mainstream UK broadcasters:

[…] This needs saying, and it needs saying quite clearly. There is a problem. Potentially, it is a very big problem. It has the capacity to change utterly what we do, and in the process to betray the people we ought to be serving. Once people start believing we’re playing fast and loose with them routinely, we’ve had it.

[…] Let me say right now that some of the things of which we stand accused are contemptible. I can see no circumstances at all under which you can justify defrauding the public on a premium rate phone line. In fact, I can’t quite see why there aren’t grounds for prosecution. And, frankly, I find it pretty hard to believe some of the television bosses when they say they had no idea what was going on.

Finally, someone in the TV industry telling it like it is.

What’s sickened me in recent weeks is seeing and hearing the platitudes by senior executives of those broadcasters offering all manner of excuses for the frauds and distancing themselves individually from blame and responsibility.

But one senior head has already rolled with the resignation of GMTV’s managing director last month.

Who’s next in the house cleaning?

The good news is that the heads of Channel 4, ITV and the BBC are to meet next month to agree a joint response to the crisis of trust in British television.

The result of that meeting needs to be pretty compelling if the word ‘trust’ can be uttered in combination with the world ‘television’ again.

There are already other choices, you know.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.