On bad taste and TV

Yesterday, I posted a blog about the accuracy of points on Brexit made on TV by Naomi Long yesterday morning.  A multitude of people have hurried to tell me how obnoxious my (passing) comments on the Alliance Party leader were. I’ve gone back and looked at what I said and I can see that what I wrote could well have been hurtful to Naomi. Accordingly, I’ve removed that paragraph from the blog and have no hesitation in apologizing to the Alliance party leader for my crassness and any hurt this may have caused her. I hope she will accept that apology.

The more general point that I clumsily tried to make, that  the audio-visual media and television in particular pay a lot of attention to image as well as sound, remains undeniable.  The most famous case was the John F Kennedy vs  Richard Nixon debate of 1960, during the US presidential campaign. The majority of those Americans who listened to the debate on radio were convinced Nixon had won; the majority of those who had watched it on TV thought Kennedy had won. In the voting booth, TV with its image as well as sound proved superior: Kennedy was elected.

And there are other indicators of the demands of television on those appearing. Most of us most of the time probably forget that just about everyone appearing on TV, including men, wear make-up.  On the few occasions I’ve been on a TV show, I’ve had my bald head well dusted with powder to minimize the glare.  The lighting and camera-work usually try to show the participants literally in the best light and from the best angle. And when there used to be those water-cooler Monday morning conversations at work, it frequently was about a programme that had been on TV, rarely about a programme that’d been on radio.

All of which is unfair. Richard Nixon, like the rest of us, was born with the face God gave him. He should never have been judged on how he looked: his analyses and record as a politician should have been what led people to vote for or against him. But Kennedy was better-looking, less shifty in appearance, and Kennedy won the day.

I’d emphasise that the above isn’t an attempt to slide away from my regret over my paragraph on Naomi. That was bad judgement and bad taste, and I shouldn’t have written it. Mea culpa.


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