Being someone whose knowledge of classical music is derived from clips played in episodes of Morse, from compact disc compilations given free with newspapers, and from television theme tunes, there are not many pieces of music that I recognize, but there are a few.
So even though the a piece of music had begun unannounced, I recognized it from the first couple of bars – it was the theme music from the ITV television series This Week.
This Week was a current affairs programme that went out at peak viewing time in the days when television news was something to be taken seriously and wasn’t a broadcast version of a glossy “celebrity” magazine. The theme tune, the intermezzo from Jean Sibelius’ Karelia Suite, seemed to be a statement that this was serious television, that the content of this programme was to be taken as seriously as the composition that introduced it.
Something got lost along the way.
ITV maintained that it was commercial pressures that meant that they could no longer find the resources or the viewing times for such programmes and seized the opportunity provided by lighter touch regulation to go for whatever might be popular, no matter how absurd or how demeaning the programmes might be. The television schedules came to be filled with dross, with whatever it was that the public demanded, and television came to be the fulfilment of the sort of programming foreseen in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
It is now hard to imagine that ITV once produced such series as Brideshead Revisited. Now, detective series are presented by ITV as “drama.”
Claiming that they must retain popular approval, the BBC chose to chase their commercial rivals to the bottom of the pond. The BBC news becoming more and more domestic and more and more personality driven. The Six O’Clock News is now little more than a magazine with content tailored to a domestic market.
The downward spiral seems to be inexorable, if Big Brother was the bottom of the pond, then Love Island must have sunk into the mud.
It seems ironic that an entertainment series would have taken the name of the oppressive power in Nineteen Eighty-Four. While the series is about looking in on people, it reflects a fulfilment of the nightmare drawn by Orwell in which people’s lives are completely controlled.
There is a sense of decay, an end of civilization. If snooping sensationalism and celebrity soundbites are what now pass as public discourse, then something really has been lost.