Living in Ireland most of my life, I seem to have missed out on the elevation of Philip Schofield to being a person of national importance in England.
My memories of him are him being with a glove puppet, called, I think, Gordon the Gopher in the 1980s, and more recently as someone who appeared on an advertisement for buying or selling cars, I don’t remember which.
Obviously, I have missed out on something significant, because the BBC homepage had an item about him having quit daytime television. It seems likely that more people saw the webpage than watched the programme, the only place I ever encountered breakfast television was in visiting people in extremis in nursing homes. It seemed an experience grimmer than sitting in an armchair in a dayroom where some well-meaning person tried to encourage ‘community singing.’
It is not as though we weren’t warned that this would be the direction that the media woukd take.
I remember being at a broadcasting conference in 1991, where BBC media correspondent Nick Higham warned that public service broadcasting was under threat, that investigative programmes might be reduced to features on subjects such as ‘dangerous dogs’ (a matter that was then exercising the popular press).
Higham’s warning has been proven true in the three decades since, as television channels have raced to the bottom in a search for ratings; even the once weighty BBC news has been progressively dumbed down and domesticated and turned into little more than celebrity gossip.
The BBC has become uncritical in its reporting. The claims of Harry Windsor that he and Ms Markle were caught in a two hour high speed car chase around the streets of New York City were plainly silly, but there was no suggestion on the part of the BBC that they might not have been true
Nick Higham’s warning came in the early morning of satellite television, when the sudden multiplication of the number of channels gave people a range of choice they had previously not enjoyed. How many of those who sat through Panorama or World In Action in the 1970s if with the flick of a remote control, they could have found a soap, or a comedy or a game show? Wasn’t the fact that there were so few channels the reason why public service programming drew such large audiences?
The web offers infinite choice, endless options for viral postings, celebrity scandal and cuddly pets. How do you persuade cuddly kitten fans to read stories about Syria? Or those who watch videos of people’s mishaps to attempt to understand the issues raised by international banking? Even the BBC regards an ageing presenter as more newsworthy than dozens of real stories.