Is this responsible TV viewing?
I can often be heard griping about the fact that the hunt for high ratings increasingly sees TV broadcasting companies providing us with entertainment that panders to the basest of our desires – voyeurism, sex and cheap thrills. So today, when I read the news about how ITV is still deciding whether to continue broadcasting the show Red & Black due to a decrease in viewing figures (thank you, public!) all I could think of was: How did this show get aired in the first place? What does it really do other than more blatantly encourage a penchant for gambling?
Sure, it’s not the first time a gambling theme has been used in gameshows – ITV already has Who Wants to Be A Millionaire for example. But at least you have to use your brain and answer questions to stay in the game and earn your keep. One could argue it might encourage people to educate themselves more on history, geography and culture, if they ever want to aspire to win. Then Channel 4 gave us Deal or No Deal which is bad enough – purely based on luck – but still a little more subtle on the gambling front as you can’t find those red boxes at your local casino. (But of course now we have the online versions of both these programmes which leads to my point that even these shows help to promote actual gambling.)
But Red or Black? seems to me to be televised gambling of the worst kind. You’ll find the roulette in every casino you go to. There is nothing to it. Red or black. That’s the cheap thrill that gets viewers hooked on the show, and arguably the same easy thrill that threatens to get people hooked on real gambling. It can be fast and easy to win (and that’s what we remember, the winners on the show, not the losers). The show is worse than even televised Texas Hold’em because being on primetime television, with Ant & Dec hosting and including variety acts like One Direction, it is made for mainstream, family viewing. I think it’s really smart for all our children to get all riled up over the possiblity of winning a million gambling…
Back in Feburary this year, The Telegraph reported that we have 150,000 more problem gamblers in the UK than we did three years ago. OK, so if you were to bet on how this show might affect these figures, where would you put your money?
Am I saying that everyone who watches the show will become a compulsive gambler? Of course not. But in the same way that a televison advert might influence one person to buy the product, and another not, the fact is we are influenced in varying degrees by what we watch. So no one can deny that television is in a position to influence society positively as well as negatively, and there has to be some degree of responsibility involved (or the consequences could be dire).
Maybe it’s time that you, Influential-TV-Powers-That-Be ,not pander to us like a spoilt child. Keep feeding us cake because you they think we want it, and we will want it, until we eventually get sick. Instead serve us wholesome greens even if we don’t love you as much at the time, but you may find we’ll start to enjoy them, and end up better for it.
Chiara Priorelli, Publicity & Online Marketing Manager
(And before any smart-alec comments that we promote gambling through our book Molly’s Millions…it’s fiction, plus the heroine didn’t buy her lottery ticket and she ends up giving away most of her winnings to deserving strangers. So there.)