Reality of Austerity TV

Posted: Feb 14, 2012 12:01 AM

What do the following quotes all have in common?  “There’s a sucker born every minute” (P.T. Barnum), “Peace for our time” (Neville Chamberlain), and “If they want reality television, then reality television it will be” (Any current TV executive). 

The common thread is simple: Give’em what they want. 

So it is with the troika consisting of the EU, ECB, and IMF which has asked the Greek parliament to once again give assurances that the impossible will be done. 

Austerity measures that will totally gut the country have been required before the next tranche of cash will be delivered.  Nobody believes the existing Greek government can deliver on its promise, and the reaction of the Greek citizens speaks volumes regarding their wishes and desires.  But let’s return to our earlier examples. 

Frequently, P.T. Barnum interspersed his collection of oddities with actors and actresses playing various roles.  Yes, there were some legitimate acts such as the Bearded Lady and a few others, but by-and-large Barnum utilized makeup, lighting, and glitz in order to sell the impossible. 

Why was he successful?  Because people really wanted to believe. 

When Neville Chamberlain met with Adolph Hitler, it was to negotiate a stoppage of the Nazi blitzkrieg over Europe.  Chamberlain came home waving a piece of paper with Hitler’s signature, assuring the world that German expansion had stopped. 

The British citizens along with the British media wanted to believe, and so they did.  That is until WWII began. 

Finally, since the inception of commercial television in the 1950s, TV executives have always known the taste of the American public has dictated the programming schedule.  It may be very difficult for many to realize (or even remember) that once upon a time television consisted of just three networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, and they were not on the air 24 hours a day.  Nevertheless, the same philosophy exists today as it did back then. 

For example, if they want CSI, give them CSI.  In addition, also give them CSI: NY and CSI: Miami.  You get the idea.  Satisfaction without limitation is always the driving force. 

Barnum understood that concept; Hitler recognized it, and every TV executive knows it as well. 

Why should the Greek parliament be any different?  “What promises do you want?” says Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.  “We’ll give it to you, just give us the money,” he exclaims.  This approach in the short-term is always successful. 

However, when the real facts are known, the consequences might include turning off the television, wanting a refund, or starting a war.  All of which are not very pretty.