A disheartened BBC employee told me that there is now no chance of getting a ‘factual’ programme commissioned unless:
it has a presenter dominating the screen, as if the audience will be uneasy watching the world outside their home without an implausibly friendly stranger – someone richer, or posher, or younger, or more attractive than them who nevertheless wants nothing more than to chat them up for half an hour – to introduce it;
it is about people the audience will have heard about in the national media, as if the interest in our fellow humans that evolved with us has recently, inexplicably, run out;
it has a risqué or catastrophic or amusing twist that will “get the nation talking about it” – which means, I suppose, persuade other media businesses that they can also get the public to watch or read commentary about it. Also, beginners in the film and TV industry are always being told that any viable piece of work can be summed up in a single-sentence pitch that will divert the attention of a bored, stressed, unreflective executive.
All of which is justified by deeply unscientific audience research. Questioning any of this will get you a reputation.
Has it always been like this? Do people in power lie more than they used to? Is it just me and my friends who talk about feeling hopeless? Is that just what happens when people who like a bit of a challenge, an intellectual or emotional adventure, in their books and films and music turn 40? Am I an elitist? If I am, is there anything wrong with that?