August 17, 2014

Oldies not wanted

Television is not normally the remit of this blog, but this article today in Melbourne’s The Age had me gnashing me old choppers and muttering into me aged whiskers.

Copyright Matt Golding, The Age
ABC TV, Australia's public broadcaster and one of the only two free-to-air television stations in the country that carries intelligent programs (the other is SBS), apparently doesn’t want oldie viewers any more, that is, anyone over the age of 50. What is the rationale, apart from outright ageism, given the ABC is not a money-making venture?

Programs like Miss Marple, Antiques Master and New Tricks are therefore likely to be cut. No doubt they will be picked up by the less-discerning channels and cast into the black hole of the television universe that is riddled with commercials every few minutes to the point where the programs are so fragmented that you lose the will to live while watching them - and perhaps given the number of funeral plan ads shown during them that is the intention.

If anyone reading this has tried to watch Downton Abbey on Channel  7 in Australia will know what I mean. The only way to watch this particular series and remain sane is to pre-record it on a device that can jump the commercials, but even then bits of it will be found to be missing and, worse, Channel 7 often sneakily changes the program start time without telling you, and you discover too late that some tacky reality show has replaced Downton, just to mock or spite you.

Another program mentioned in the article is Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, based on a very successful series of books by Kerry Greenwood. Bad news then for Australian authors too it would seem, even though ironically the audience for both the books and the series is wide-reaching and includes many younger people as well so ABC would be cutting off its own nose to get rid of this one.

Rather than rejecting their loyal oldies, I suggest ABC TV could show some innovation. Younger children are already well catered for on Channel ABC-2  during the day and those up to teenage years on Channel ABC-3. How about creating an ABC-50+ Channel and embracing the older audience rather than dismissing it?  They might be surprised at how popular it would be and even income-generating, especially if it had a really good book show similar to the UK's successful Richard & Judy Book Club with links to its ABC Books stores.

It goes without saying that age discrimination is rampant in all areas of society, including the creative arts. As older literary agents and publishers retire or are made redundant, it is only natural that the next generation will gravitate towards authors who have received similar educations, including creative writing degrees and the increasingly mandatory doctorate, and who know how to use social media to their advantage. It is difficult to expect younger literary professionals to identify with curmudgeonly old chooks who polished their skills in a bygone age and who write in styles that are perhaps considered too conservative for modern readers even if there are still many potential readers for them.

As a reviewer of new historical fiction in particular, I would like to read and support more older debut authors whenever I can, but the reality is they are not that easy to spot as they are often self-published (with all the pitfalls and vagaries in professionalism that entails) or simply because their books are not as slickly promoted and marketed as those of their well-established peers or sexy young counterparts.

I shall now sign off and ruminate on the reverse ageist possibilities of a 50+ or Wrinklies Publishing venture – no youth and beauty allowed, age and experience essential - there just might be a bit of publishing gold in that as well.


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