Stephen Fry, the leader of the anti dumbing down fightback

I could cry sometimes at what has happened to Britain. The dumbing down of our television is so upsetting, we have all this wonderful new technology, digital tv, 5.1 surround sound, flat panel displays, but when I turn on the tv, I every so often hear the Dire Straits lyric, “200 channels with nothing on”

Repeats are one thing, but the dumbing down is worse. This is particularly the case with the news. Why has it got so bad?

This is my theory. If you aim to produce a programme that is comprehensible to only 50% of the population, you are going to lose the rest. Therefore, you dumb it down so more people – say 90% can understand it. Once upon a time, programme makers took a more educational viewpoint, help the users learn more about the world. Now we have so much choice (well not real choice, but setting that aside) people are more likely to flick over, and attention spans are less. Therefore, they don’t do anything that might put the viewers off, like offer alternative viewpoints. So, for example, its easier and quicker to say the Palestinians launching missiles into Israel are terrorists, rather than explain the history of how their country has been occupied by a settler army for several decades and that the Israeli army bulldoze their homes and fire artillery at the areas from where the missiles came. There are many wrongs in that situation, and the innocent always suffer on both sides; violence is not the solution, but the full picture is often left missing.

On a lighter note, I see Stephen Fry as a standard bearer for the fightback against dumbing down. His QI programme got off to a slightly awkward start as he seemed so enthusiastic about the sound of his own voice and what seemed like a sincere passion for spreading knowledge for its own sake, not for any ulterior motive, like financial gain. He got a better balance as the show progressed, though. The contestants were a good choice for adding humour to the show, and to his credit, he prevented the banter from drifting too far from the point whilst not making the show too dry.

His recent programme about HIV/AIDS was also good to watch. I expected a depressing, pessimistic programme, but found it surprisingly light to watch. I considered myself moderately up to date with current affairs but I realised how little I knew about medical progress with HIV. It can almost be managed with drugs and victim’s lifespans are extended, it seems, close to the average person. However, why has there been a virtual media silence on the subject the last 10 years? There are more infected with HIV in Britain today than there were 20 years ago, when the news was filled with people dieing from AIDS in our hospitals.

Anyway, kudos to Stephen Fry for casting a spotlight on the issue! Vive le fightback!


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