Commercial breaks.

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Watching television here in Australia can be a stressful experience. This is not because I am out of step with many of the cultural references, nor is it because I don't know who any of the celebrities are; back in the UK, I had little idea who half of the celebrities were. Indeed, many of the shows on here are familiar, with programmes like Graham Norton's chat show being screened often.

The problem comes when I am sat, half awake, in front of the idiot box consuming some undemanding drivel. What seems like a relaxed and jovial chat show suddenly jumps into a dramatic confrontation between vampires and werewolves, or an exposé revealing the imminent danger of breathing during a longhaul flight or drinking tap water. Having been jolted from my torpor by this dramatic announcement, I am suddenly fully focussed on the TV. Why is everyone shouting? What should I be doing first? Is it too late to buy firearms or a gasmask?

At this point, the TV will cut to an overweight man in a suit, looking awkward and shouting at me about cars or washing machines. This is usually the owner of the business who lacks even the presentastion skills of a barrow boy, but insists on declaring the life-changing properties of their products. It is all very loud and confusing.

In the UK, we have some kind of warning that we are about to be plunged into the world of advertising. A message will come up on the screen telling us what programme we are leaving, or simply saying 'back soon'. It's the commercial TV version of the Corinthian Spirit. We know what to expect, and some programmes even contain jovial references to putting the kettle on during the ad break, as though acknowledging the commercial interests is somehow vulgar.

Not so here. Advertising is dumped into programmes with no warning and great frequency. I recently watched a film which was an hour longer than normal running time because of the ads. An hour. About a third of the viewing time. If that wasn't enough, there are also ads popping up in the corners and along the bottom of the screen, just in case we want to know what else we could be enjoying.  Watching Australian television is the closest I've come to experiencing ADHD.

As if the frequency and delivery style were not confusing enough, there is the matter of the content itself. Sandwiched between the fishing tackle and chainsaw promotions, we are treated to adverts for earth moving equipment. Shouty earth-moving equipment, of course. Can there really be that many people considering their next industrial equipment purchase while watching the cricket, or is this just a public service to placate 2 year olds who are obsessed with diggers?

As far as I can make out from the ads, the average Australian family has a swimming pool (excavated with their own JCB), a ride-on lawnmower, a fishing boat with an outboard motor and a chiller box big enough to hide a dead body,  several chainsaws, a utility vehicle, a sports vehicle, a sports utility vehicle, an outdoor kitchen (complete with extractor hood and 8 ring gas barbeque), and enough air-freshener, anti-bacterial sprays and insecticide to create a home that would make the surface of the moon seem fecund and teeming with life.
But you needn't worry about the environmental implications of all this. The average Australian family spends all their waking hours gambling in casinos, on pokies, on line and on their smartphones. Is this why it's called The Lucky Country?

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Tim, what on EARTH are you doing watching commercial television?

The UK has trash newspapers and their associated websites: the Daily Mail for example.

Our version is trash TV, including the 'shouty' ads.

Stick with the ABC and SBS. :)

You're right, the UK certainly does have trash newspapers, the Mail being the worst offender. It has trash tv too, but I'm used to it, and advertising seems to play by a different set of rules here. And they sell more industrial earth-moving equipment here too, by the look of it.

I do spend most of my time watching ABC and SBS, and it is better, but for my sport fix I am reduced to commercial TV.
Consider me suitably chastised.

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