Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Channel 4's Ramadan bonanza

As far as manufactured outrages go, this one was entirely predictable. Channel 4 announced plans to broadcast the call to prayer throughout Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic calendar, which starts today. The plan is to have a three-minute broadcast around 3am when fasting begins and a 20-second broadcast for the other four calls to prayer throughout the day.

The usual suspects freaked right out. Here are some of their choice whines...


No, It's not. Watching Channel 4 is not compulsory. If you don't like it, nobody is compelling you to watch it.


Really? You're planning on getting up at 3am every day during Ramadan to watch a three-minute call to prayer broadcast? And even if you did happen to be watching TV at the time, you can always change the channel if you're genuinely offended.

As for the other four broadcasts, they're 20 seconds long. Twenty seconds. Most TV commercials go on for longer than that and they are generally deeply annoying and stupid. Are you really so suggestible that a 20-second call-to-prayer broadcast is going to cause you to instantly embrace Islamic extremism? If there was a 20-second advert on instead of the call to prayer, would you feel compelled to rush out and buy whatever was being offered?

"I don't need a jasmine-scented electronic air freshener but that damn telly-box told me to buy one so I'm off to the shops!"

Frankly, if you are that suggestible, you have bigger problems than Channel 4.


Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realise every single thing on every single TV channel had to cater to the majority. On that basis, there has been so much pandering happening on our TV screens. Friday Night Dinner is a sitcom about an English-Jewish family - why no outcry? After all, Jews only make up 0.5% of the population in England and Wales. The multi-cultural Albert Square of EastEnders is broadcast twice five nights a week as well as a weekend omnibus. Surely that is political correctness gone mad, no? What about the contestants from Big Brother or The Apprentice who aren't white Brits? Are they there for the purposes of pandering too? Ah. I get it. You think they're pandering to a minority that you don't like. It's all clear now!


Well, obviously, they want the publicity. No shit, Sherlock. The powers-that-be at Channel 4 want people to watch their programmes, to talk about their programmes (#averybritishramadan trended on Twitter for them last night) and for businesses to buy the advertising space between the programmes.

Channel 4 is a commercially funded business that has not-for-profit status so it reinvests revenue back into programme development. It is independent of government. Your taxes are not paying the salaries of whoever is producing the call to prayer broadcasts. As such, Channel 4 has no obligations to British taxpayers.

They obviously want to produce programmes that might make money and if lots of people watch programmes like A Very British Ramadan in between Channel 4's usual offerings of jaw-dropping documentaries, re-runs of Come Dine With Me, Sarah Beeny restoring houses in varying stages of pregnancy, and the pus-filled fun of Embarrassing Bodies then so be it. Who knows? You might even learn something.


Seriously, if you turn on your TV any time from about mid-November onwards and you don't know Christmas is coming, I don't think I can help you. Go away.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Australia, post-Gillard...

I have not lived in Australia for almost eight years. Hell, why do I even care what goes on politically back home? But I do. Aside from the fact I still pay tax in Australia, I have friends and family there and I don't want them to suffer any government idiocy, regardless of who is in power.

And then Julia Gillard was deposed. In favour of Kevin Rudd. The man Gillard deposed before narrowly winning an election. Whatever you think of Gillard, it took some serious guts to call a leadership spill knowing it would almost certainly mean the end of her time in office. After much Murdoch press-led speculation, the time came to cut the shit and end the nonsense.

So Gillard's gone, Rudd is the Prime Minister again, the dust has settled, will anything change?

Probably. Kind of.

I get why Gillard was binned. The polls indicated electoral catastrophe for her against Tony Abbott, the leader of the Liberal party (which is actually Australia's conservative party and Abbott is the king of saying stupid things that are far from liberal, but I digress...). Kevin Rudd was polling way better than Gillard and it looks like he has a chance of, if not winning the next election, then at least ensuring the Labor party's representation isn't reduced to a few people and a dog.

And speaking of dogs, a company called Paddington Pups have released a Julia Gillard chew toy. See the picture at the top of this post. It's ever so clever. For $33.70, a little piece of Aussie sexism and cognitive dissonance can be yours.


We can argue until we're blue in the face as to whether Gillard was a victim of sexism. I don't think it was the only factor in her downfall but it certainly played a role. Why was she so unpopular in the polls in comparison to Rudd?

Growing up in a very politically minded household, I have been observing Australian politics for close to three decades. I was encouraged to take an interest in politics from a very early age (although, aged four, my summation of former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, as a "bum face" was possibly not my most nuanced moment).

In that time, I can safely say I have never seen the level of vitriol thrown at Gillard thrown at any other Prime Minister. And when I say vitriol, I mean personal attacks, stupid questions and irrelevant comments about everything from the size of her arse (yeah, well-played, Germaine Greer. Way to carry the torch for the sisterhood!) to her hair colour to her accent (Australian Prime Minister has Australian accent. SHOCK!) to the contents of her uterus or lack thereof. Endless rivers of venom spewed forth, most of which had precisely nothing to do with any policies.

The context of her famous misogyny rant at Tony Abbott was unfortunate (Google "Peter Slipper"...) but the content was spot-on. Abbott had no qualms about using the sexist hatred of Gillard for his own ends.

But it's OK, everyone. She has gone now. And in her wake are the usual "well, this will put off women running for office" comments. When Rudd was originally deposed, nobody said that'd put men off running for office. Nor did Paddington Pups launch a Kevin Rudd chew toy, complete with a stupid sales pitch that showed a lack of understanding about Australian politics.

Now we have Rudd back, and as a bonus, he has some some wishy-washy rhetoric on asylum seeker policy. Hell, when you can't be sexist, you can always try and pander to the racists, I guess. Although if Rudd was so offended by asylum seeker policy under Gillard and, especially while he was the Minister for Foreign Affairs, why didn't he speak out about it then? Or cross the floor with the carbon tax vote? Or do anything to dissent against Gillard on a policy level?

Congratulations, Australia. You can look forward to another Cyanide versus Arsenic election.