I responded with my gut reaction that I thought this was a terrible idea. The TV licence is relatively cheap and well worth it, I think, to retain TV stations free of advertising.
Aha, responded my debating adversary, but the BBC dofes have advertisements. And of course he is right, it does. Between every programme there are loads of them – all, of course, for the BBC itself and the programmes that we can look forward to in future.
There are two critical differences, however:
1. the adverts are between programmes, they don’t actually interrupt me half way through my viewing to tell me about the wonderful, not-to-be-missed opportunities.
2. the adverts tend to be less annoying – you don’t have to listen to the Go Compare man warbling away or watch those creepy Wonga puppets.
And adverts are really annoying now aren’t they? Back in the old days, when you were watching ITV, you got decent warning that the ads were coming up. The programme would stop and up would pop a screen saying “end of part one” and then on would come the “commercial break”. Now the adverts just jump out on you without warning. If you’re not paying attention you wonder why the hero in the film you’re watching is suddenly making such a fuss about his car insurance.
Adverts also used to be of a certain quality. By the standards of the day they were reasonably well produced and moderately restrained, often with annoyingly catchy jingles. Now they tend to fall into two camps: on the one hand you have the huge budget block-buster ads which are beautifully filmed but often make no sense whatsoever; on the other hand you have the cringingly low-budget adverts beloved of cheap insurance companies. Either way, they are mostly hideous.
Luckily, in these modern days, adverts are increasingly easy to avoid. I never watch anything ‘live’ on TV; everything is recorded. As soon as the first sign of an advert appears I dive for the fast forward button and I’m onto part two before you can say “DFS Sale”.
Sure, this means I miss out on the odd advert of such brilliance that it becomes a talking point, but that doesn’t matter because someone will soon post a You Tube clip onto Facebook so I can catch up with the Zeitgeist.
The trouble is, advertisers know this, so they have to get cleverer. Product placement is now the thing, so it may not be too long before you find the hero in the film you’re watching really is making a big fuss about his car insurance.
So far, so bad, but something happened the other day which annoyed me even more. Until that moment I had forgotten about my debate on TV advertising, but this brought it crashing back.
I was watching a TV programme on one of the Sky channels, so I had already interrupted my viewing two or three times to forward through adverts. Then, around 5 minutes before the end, the programme suddenly shrank to the size of a postage stamp in one half of the screen. The other half of the screen filled with an advertisement for a programme that was coming up later in the week.
This often happens at the end of films and can be very irritating if you want to try to read the credits, but this was actually whilst the programme was still in full flow, with dialogue and everything.
Then, as quickly as it came, it went away again and all returned to normal as if nothing had happened.
Okay, so in this instance this was advertising an upcoming programme, so in theory at least the BBC could do the same. I sincerely hope they don’t start. But how long will it be before this starts happening with actual adverts. You won’t be able to fast forward through them if they just suddenly pop up whilst your programme continues in the background. Maybe this is just softening us up to see how much we will stand.
Well, I can’t stand much – at this rate I will be doing away with my TV licence and watching everything either on demand over the internet (no adverts and no licence) or on DVD. Advertisers will still find a way though I fear…