Chicken Nugget Television and the Decline of Intelligent Viewing

Television has long been blamed for turning it’s audience into zombies.

In 2010, renowned actor and intellectual, Stephen Fry made comments suggesting that the BBC has a lack of intelligent programming. He remarked that “Infantilisim’s the problem.” and described the current available choices on the channel as chicken nugget viewing. The connotation there is that this type of viewing is fast food, unhealthy and bland.

I argue that this infantilisation of network television programming is an effect of the televisions dying business model. In an attempt to to stem the increasing decline in television viewing networks are making their program’s more accessible.

Creators aiming to make quality programming have all but fled network television programming. It’s a dying business model, and in this nearly post apocalyptic world many have head to services such as Netflix and HBO(It’s not TV, It’s HBO.). These services have business models that encourage and foster the creation of quality television viewing. They need not bend to the will of advertising companies which frees up what the channel’s can provide to their audience. So what’s left for those not willing to pay for premium viewing services or willing to torrent? The sad truth is not much.

Australian free to view television has always had problems. Long wait times for overseas imports and a lack of original content have left Australian TV channels looking anemic. We have the most popular American imports such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS” that appeal to a wide audience, along with Australian versions of US television shows. The most popular Australian television show this year is Channel 7’s, “My Kitchen Rules” which is a rip off of a British show, “Come Dine With Me” and a another show on a rival channel, “Masterchef“.

I believe that the television has parallel’s to the gramophone, in that it’s use was not readily apparent and instead its true nature unfolded over time as people got to know the technology. The way that television is used is not for the consumption of art or entertainment, but rather to switch off. It services as something to distract and entertain while we do other things. This is why we get disposable programming such as “The Block: Fan’s Vs. Faves“. If you want quality programming, which is more plentiful than ever, you have to go to extra effort for it. You have to go out of the main stream and what the channels are offering. SBS and ABC are trying their hardest but the best source is, as most people know, the internet.

It’s interesting that our original fears about the effects of television on the masses have, to a small extent, come true. Not because of malicious design, but rather because of how we decided to use this media. The situation may only get worse as more people switch off the box and the networks pander to reel in viewers. It’s an intriguing dynamic to consider.


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