Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What about the quality of TV?

While I was waiting for my haircut (see post above), I read about the low quality of private TV-stations in a magazine (for more about the quality of magazines in a hairdresser's shop also see post above). And that made me wonder how a magazine which basically does pretty much the same "infotainment" magazines on the private TV-stations do as well could judge them like that. But then, it's one of the very righteous magazines which also go against "Killerspiele" and everything that doesn't fit with their pseudo-liberal view of the world.

They were bemoaning - at length - the fact that only very few private TV-stations (as opposed to those controlled by the government) put out a lot of documentaries (although some of them do...). They have to make money with the stuff they show, after all. Low rates of viewers means less money from advertisements. But then, what does that in essence mean?

It means the stuff those TV-stations air is exactly what most viewers are interested in. They have to take care of that, otherwise they won't get the rates they need. But putting away what they don't want to show isn't limited to private TV-stations.

ZDF and ARD are the two governmental supported TV-stations in Germany (ARD is composed of a large group of regional stations, actually). Ever since they breached out, they have also changed the quality of their program quite a bit. For example they've banned everything high-cultural, like theatre or opera, to a special station, 3Sat, which is a cooperation with Swiss and Austrian TV. The same goes, to a certain degree, for ARTE, a French-German cooperation. There's a special station for documentaries as well (Phoenix, which I quite like to watch). And there's a special station for children's programs, too. Ever since "Kinderkanal" (Children's Channel) went up, ARD and ZDF have shown next to 0 programs for kids. In addition, even though every adult in Germany has to pay around 17 Euros every three months for those stations, they have, over the last couple of years, started to work with advertisements as well. That makes me sick, especially as I probably watch a total of one or two hours a week of their programs.

Private stations never claimed to be anything but specialized on entertainment. They have their own news which - while maybe a bit shallow - nevertheless cover the same stuff the online-versions of most print magazines in Germany (which I browse every day) also cover. So how can the print-version of a magazine go on at length about 'bad journalism' which they do online as well? Hypocrisy, I guess. They have some cultural magazines (usually late at night) and are specialized in showing what 90 percent of the viewers want to see.

Young people - those who watch the private stations - tend to get their information elsewhere, usually online. They don't need 20 magazines and news shows on TV. They tend to make their own picture of the world - and especially the internet, where you can search and cross-reference easily, helps a lot with that. And the private news shows tend to do it better, with more explanations and a better wording.

Older people tend to watch ARD and ZDF (or their regional stations) a lot anyway. But - as I know from my parents who are both 60+ - even they quite often find the programs boring.

While the private stations tend to create their own series - or simply buy the ones from other countries they like -, ARD and ZDF seem forced to produce their own versions of formats that have been successful somewhere else. Where's the point in that? Imagine a successful series from the US or even the UK, but with German actors. That takes a lot of the fun out of it, mostly (an Australian format translated decades ago is the only one which I personally find has made it very well in it's German version).

I don't just watch a show like "House" (for example) for the medical cases. I'm not a doctor or nurse myself, neither am I a fan of series like "E.R.". I watch it for the cases, but I also watch it because of Hugh Laurie who plays such an interesting character. For me, Dr. Gregory House only works that way when Hugh Laurie plays him. I don't even want to imagine a German actor in this role (especially as some of the stuff probably would not happen in a German version - it's different if they just do a voice over for it).

The same goes for other formats. The only remotely interesting Sci-Fi series ever produced in Germany (in the 60's, if I remember it correct) had six episodes and was more fun than suspense. Nevertheless, "Raumpatrouille Orion" is far better (despite gigantic goldfish, equipment that screamed "recycled household stuff" and absolutely hideous dances) than other attempts (very few) to produce something that could look a series like "Star Trek" in the eye. (We can do for cinema, though, just watch "(T)Raumschiff Surprise".) We Germans do great crime stories and mediocre soap operas, but we're really bad at most other stuff - 'cause it's against our idea of culture, I guess. So why take a format and produce a new, usually worse series instead of just buying the series as a such and do a good German dubbing? Works perfectly for the private stations (which also produce their own formats, but have left the idea of stealing the formats far behind - after "Married … with children" [calling the German version a disaster would be flattery]).

Quality of TV is decreasing everywhere, at least from my point of view. But to me it's more shocking what happened to the supposedly 'better' government-supported stations that to the self-financed private ones.

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