Sunday 15 November 2009

Tired of reruns on TV? Stop watching them

A couple of weeks ago, The Straits Times published an entertainingly caustic letter complaining about Channel 5 showing the same movies like Lord Of The Rings and Broken Arrow over and over again.

MediaCorp has always been an easy target for criticism, particularly Channel 5. I should know – I’ve worked there on and off since the early ’90s.

The writer asked: “Are there no other movies that can be shown ... besides (those about) talking dogs?”

Talking dogs? I didn't know there were talking animals in LOTR and Broken Arrow. Maybe Channel 5 can repeat those movies again so that I can look out for the talking dogs.

He also asked why Phua Chu Kang was “resurrected" in KL and “shoved back on our screen”? I puzzled over this myself, especially since the entire Malaysian series has been available on the web for months.

Then I saw Gurmit as PCK fronting ads for Courts. Ah, sponsorship. So that's why.

The letter then asked why Channel 5 isn’t airing such new “hot shows” like Dexter, Gossip Girl and Mad Men.

My reaction is that if you're media-savvy enough to be aware of such “hot shows”, you should also be media-savvy enough to find alternate channels – cable or online – to watch them rather than rely on free-to-air TV.

Which according to a recent ST report, fewer and fewer Singaporeans are doing so, falling from 41 per cent in 2005 to 36 per cent this year.

The writer also asked: “Is this what I get for diligently paying my TV licensing fee on time?”

Interesting how people feel that paying for their TV licence to gives them a right to demand newer movies, hotter shows and even English football on local free TV.

As PCK might say: “You think you’re $110 so big ah?”

Does anyone honestly believe that Singaporeans will stop complaining about MediaCorp if the TV licence fee is abolished? It's like asking us to stop complaining about foreigners. (UPDATE: In 2011, the TV licence fee was abolished!)

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has pointed out time and again that the money collected from the fees go to funding programmes that “keep Singaporeans informed about issues affecting them, promote racial harmony, foster social cohesion and cultivate a sense of national identity”.

This excludes the latest Hollywood blockbusters, but oddly enough, not Sayang Sayang 2, which the letter writer felt had “failed badly”.

The letter’s punchline – “It (Channel 5) might as well dig out Donny & Marie Show reruns” – made me laugh out loud, betraying my age.

A week later, Channel 5’s written reply was less amusing and still laughable in parts.

The broadcaster’s stand is basically as long as viewers keep watching these movies (with or without loquacious canines), it will keep repeating them.

So in its own clever way, Channel 5 is actually blaming its own viewers for its hoary programming.

This means that if Donny & Marie reruns can get enough ratings - and sponsorship from Harvey Norman - the toothsome twosome from Utah could conceivably return to Channel 5.

There was a girl, there was a boy ...

- Published in The New Paper, 15 November 2005