Let’s face it – only Britain could produce a woman like Mary Whitehouse.
An ordinary school teacher from middle Britain she became the scourge of TV producers everywhere when she set up the National Viewers And Listeners Association in the 1960s – complaining about sex, nudity, swearing and, quite oddly, about puppet pigs being cruel to one another (no, really)
She believed that young children were at risk of being exposed to images and ways of life that her Christian upbringing didn’t approve of. She was also instrumental in starting the “9 O’clock Watershed” for more adult-themed programmes (a watershed that becomes more and more pointless as the years go by)
Much as Mary Whitehouse was as nutty as a Whole-nut Chocolate bar with extra nuts I do sometimes pause to wonder exactly what values the Idiot Box is teaching our nation.
Take “Golden Balls” (and I wish someone would)
GB is hosted by 80s comedian Jasper Carrott (not his real name) and is shown at 5pm. The idea is that three contestants are given 5 balls – some may contain cash amounts, others contain the word “Killer” (which reduces the prize fund). Only they know which is which and they have to convince their opponents to keep them, and their balls, for the final round – where they will have the opportunity to “steal” or “share” the money.
So effectively the programme encourages the idea that stealing and lying brings instant rewards.
GB is not alone in this – programmes like X Factor and Britain’s (Really Hasn’t) Got Talent encourage people with No Fixed Ability to shame themselves on telly by being useless in the hope of getting a quick route to fame. The same can be said of the Big Brother phenomenon of programming – 10 chimpanzees in a house for umpteen, seemingly never-ending weeks, looking to earn themselves a big cash prize for lazing about, picking fleas off one another and being annoying.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m deeply cynical about censorship. We can’t go around treating people like idiots and trying to protect them from the real world – but there is a thin line between showing the truth (showing scenes of a war) and voyeurism (showing a dying man being handed a phone so he can phone his family one last time) that is clearly aimed at ratings only.
We forget how powerful and seductive the TV is – we invite it into our houses as we would a friend and it informs our view of the world. Gone are the days of the impartial BBC.
In many households it has replaced the babysitter and become the moral compass by which our nation sets its values – with endless soaps showing crimes that go unpunished, crime shows showing corrupt police officers and news programmes that concentrate on celebrity gossip over actual facts.
But I could be wrong – maybe the BBC should organise a phone in vote?