Diatribe - 17

Foreword: Iím still pretty young to Dunedin and New Zealand. This diatribe is therefore the expression of my feelings as an outsider and a newbie to Dunedinís student and cultural life. I come from a country where protesting in the streets is almost a national sport. You may have in mind the clichť of the Parisian students throwing cobblestones at the police in May 1968. Over the last few years, French students have been protesting against topics such as the immigration policy or the semi-privatisation of public universities as planned by Sarkozyís right-winged government. I am glad to see that even in a quiet country as New Zealand, students know how to stand up for what they believe in. But the Radio One story should be more than a mere student concern.

In the entertainment society, artists have become a product like any other, a mere way to generate money. Commercial music, commercial movies, commercial radios. Art for art’s sake survives in the artists’ minds, but sadly it has been forsaken by the mass media. We know the results: take American Idol and you’ll see that even the greatest songs are turned into dull and insipid covers. In music, as in literature or cinema, the vast majority of what is produced on a large scale seems to be labelled “one genre fits them all”.
And why is that? Commercial TV channels or radios chose their programmes not according to quality but to how much the advertisers will pay to be placed at this particular moment. I remember this cynical quote by Patrick Le Lay a few years ago, then CEO of TF1, sadly France’s biggest and main TV Channel: “what we’re selling to Coca-Cola is available human brain time”*. Sad but true. Broadcasters used to look for quality programmes and then finance them through advertisement. But today, au contraire, they will choose a programme according to the advertisement opportunities it offers. 
Saving Radio One goes beyond the debate on whether the VSM law project is legitimate or not. It is about the good of eclecticism and diversity. It is about providing free access to culture to anyone in Dunedin, and not only to students. It is about how radio should be and what it should stand for: expressing opinions, promoting the arts at a local and broader scale, opening people’s minds to tolerance through diversity, uniting the listeners through a community feeling. In other words, it is about how today’s entertainment society, governed by the Almighty Commercials, threatens the survival of cultural bastions such as student radios. And that concerns everyone. 

*The full quote, for interest’s sake, is: "There are many ways to talk about television. But in a ‘Business’ perspective, let's be realistic: basically, TF1's job is to help Coca-Cola sell its product, for instance. To make the advertising message well received, the audience's brain must be available. Our shows are here to make the brain available, to entertain it, to relax it, to prepare it between two messages. What we're selling to Coca-Cola is available human brain time. Nothing is as difficult as getting this availability."

Posted 11:43pm Monday 25th July 2011 by Marjo Cantus.