Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Over-sanitising life?

Something occurred to me yesterday after a couple of weeks of watching Spanish TV, especially the news.

It strikes me that in the UK TV broadcasts are hugely sanitised.

For instance, a few days ago three people were killed in a shoot-out between a Turkish rebel and the police. Spanish news showed vivid, close-up images of of the dead rebel, lying in a huge pool of blood, rigor mortis clearly setting in as one of his hands was clawed and his forearm still vertical to the ground. (The other two people killed were a police chief and a 16-year-old bystander - not shown). This was all shown during broadcasts during the day as well as the evening, in a perfectly matter-of-fact way.

In the UK, it probably wouldn't have been shown at all even after the 9pm "watershed", but if it had been, it would have been preceded by the newsreader saying "Some viewers may find the following images disturbing". The nanny state alive and well again. It's the news. It is meant to report real life (and death) - and reality is frequently disturbing. That's the point. Do we really need TV stations to have to apologise in advance for simply broadcasting a news story? Would we actually prefer to just have happy stories about fluffy kittens and rainbows? Of course we wouldn't. But I don't remember anyone pointing out that viewers may find the images of, say, British and American troops invading Iraq, disturbing. I certainly did, but it doesn't mean I didn't want to remain informed.

The Spanish version of the Turkish rebel story was informative and entirely watchable. It would have been enhanced perhaps by saying who the dead were - not so we know who to hate, but to personalise it a bit more. After all, whoever they were, they had families somewhere who were going to be devastated. And as the saying goes, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

The UK news goes even further in swaddling us in cotton wool. Before showing a clip of an awards ceremony, or someone on a red carpet etc, we're warned "This film may contain flash photography"! No sh*t! Nowadays many European laws (civil or otherwise) are being standardised, so presumably a TV station has much the same chance of being sued in Spain as it does in the UK. Does this suggest, then, that the UK has particularly litiginous epileptics? No, it simply confirms that in Spain people seem to be allowed to get on with life using a bit of common sense, without the threat of lawsuits and complaints. Apart from (occasional!) No Smoking and (more common) No Dogs signs, this country does not bombard you with officialdom telling you what you can and can't do.

I'm well aware that the UK is unlikely to move back to a less nanny state - presumably some people think it's progress - but it's refreshing to be here and to be treated like a grown-up!