An Exciting New Documentary

In which The Author tries to broaden his appeal to a younger and more media-savvy readership

Recently I’ve been watching a number of documentaries on DVD and the BBC iPlayer, both at home and in the lecture theatre, and I’ve detected a rather frightening pattern in the production.
When I was a kid it was taken for granted that large numbers of intelligent, well-informed or inquisitive people would tune in to Lord Clark’s Civilisation, Jakob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Horizon, The South Bank Show, or the groundbreaking wildlife documentaries presented by Sir David Attenborough, and sit for a full hour immersed in what communication scientists refer to as an ‘information-rich environment.’
The audience didn’t need to be constantly reminded of where in the world Bangladesh or Uganda or Australia is by a graphic of a spinning globe (always centred on the UK, of course) zooming in on the land in question. They didn’t need to be shown footage of a snooker match whenever atomic motion was discussed. Still pictures of historical battles, accompanied by the sounds of clashing swords or musket fire and the cries of the combatants, were good enough for Blue Peter, but adults didn’t need that sort of trashy add-on. Flashbacks were reserved for drama programmes, and trailers of forthcoming shows were shown in the run-up to the episode, never tacked onto the end of the current one.
That’s all changed.
There’s such a multiplicity of different types of programme available on hundreds of channels that the broadcasters can’t risk losing even a single viewer to the competition. Gone are the days when BBC2 could take the risk of scheduling something like The World About Us on a Sunday night, opposite the latest costume drama on the majority channel, secure in the knowledge that a fair audience would be watching at any given time. Now, the presentation and editing styles reflect this need to keep bums on seats.
So, after taking advice from a plethora of Media Studies folk of my acquaintance, I’ve decided it’s time to change my presentation style to suit the new global media experience. Coming up in this blog:
  • I’ll preview the coming attractions and give you a summary of what’s in store, in order to try and capture your attention for the next however-many minutes it takes you to read this. I might even give you a potted account of stuff that occurred in the previous entries, just in case you missed one and won’t be able to take the information in at face value without some prior briefings.
  • Then I’ll go into more detail in the first section of the blog, but I won’t make it so complicated that you’ll be tempted to navigate away. At most, it’ll take you five minutes to read this first section, in case you get bored.
  • After the first section, I’ll trail the stuff that’s coming up in the second part. After all, the worst thing that can happen is that you forget why you came here in the first place. I’ve got to try and keep your attention somehow. Even if you didn’t like the first bit, or find it particularly interesting, I’m sure you won’t be able to resist the highlights in store.
  • Okay, now it’s time to briefly recap the stuff we covered in the first section, because I take for granted you’ve got such a limited short-term memory that you’ll have already forgotten most of it. Then we’ll move straight to the second section, in which I expand on the content of the first section, before stopping again to review what’s already happened.
  • Now I’ll tease you with the contents of the third section, before we stop yet again and have another recap of the first two sections. The fact that I assume you all suffer from chronic amnesia and a catastrophic lack of attention span is quite alarming, isn’t it?
  • It’s the third section now, where I start tying together all the information that you’ve acquired up to this point and you start to think it’s all over. But fear not, I’m not done yet – it’s time to look ahead to the fourth and final section.
  • After revisiting the previous paragraphs once more, we move swiftly to the conclusion. Was it worth waiting for? Only you can decide. As a coda, I might even give you a sneak preview of the next entry – what a tease I am, eh? Tune in next week …

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