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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March 2005, 15:36 GMT
Will the TV steamroller ever stop?

BBC Two's If... TV Goes Down The Tube explores how the power of television could take a turn for the worse, as a live, on-screen suicide coincides with corrupt dealings in a new world of "digital democracy".

If... TV Goes Down The Tube
In the IF... drama, a mother sees her daughter die on live television
Are the boundaries of taste and decency on British television being pushed too far, leaving a potential human disaster just around the corner?

Should we worry about who controls - or does not control - this highly influential medium?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The views expressed on these pages are not necessarily the views of the BBC. The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received.

The real power lies with media moguls who pursue their own political agenda and spin accordingly
Hugh, London
Stop the endless conspiracy theories about the threat to democracy from autocratic Governments - anyone who has ever worked in the Civil Service knows that the UK government is too inept to ever succeed with such an agenda. The real power lies with media moguls (both of the commercial and non commercial variety) who pursue their own political agenda and spin accordingly. Next time the media bellows the words "freedom of the press" ask yourself whether what is really at stake is the right of free expression or whether this concerns the right to control the flow of information for commercial and political purposes.
Hugh, London

There are just too many TV channels with too few good ideas for TV programmes. When we had just the three terrestrial channels bad programmes happened now and again but now you can flick through 60 channels and not find one decent programme to watch! Me? I'm going back to the radio...at least on the radio you can use your imagination when listening to a play AND you can be doing something else more productive at the same time!
Colin, Portsmouth, UK

We've reached the point of seeing "reality" sex on TV; I don't think the prospect of a reality onscreen death would shock many people. Meanwhile, as far as TV "going down the tube" is concerned - get a cable or satellite package and flick through the hundreds of channels available. This exercise will prove two things: that choice isn't necessarily the good thing people assume it to be, and that TV went down the tube a long time ago.
Simon Feegrade, Surbiton, England

Personally I like the BBC very much. Before criticising UK television you should see what they get in the US, that is if you can find a channel that isn't showing adverts. And to get anything at all you have to pay a lot. The only free channels are sales (Advert) channels and local (very weird) religious ones. Having said all that I hate game shows and the big brother type reality shows. You can't beat programmes that make you think, encouraging an alternative perception, and educate. Anything that intrigues and interests, is fresh and new, will always be highly entertaining. Which is what it is all about really.
Terry M, Hersham, UK

With progress there will be good and bad
David, Scotland
TV used to be quality programming with sections of polyfilla to fill the gaps. Now it is polyfilla in every mainstream channel, with the occasional cherry. I agree about what is going to happen with the net, but if an illegal show like reality killing or suicide appears on the net, are you telling me that while it will be watched and accepted by a global mass the authorities will not be able to find the servers and arrested the producers? Extreme content like this will be traceable.

Yes, we will get a lot of junk. But we will also get a lot of great programming away from the mainstream sector. In reality, the net is going to be a massive threat to mainstream TV. With progress there will be good and bad.
David, Scotland

I stopped watching this programme because of the stupid camera techniques. If all TV in 2016 is like this, then I'll stop watching TV altogether.
Ian McRobert, Peterborough UK

That there is a load of dross on UK TV is no secret. However, real depression sets in when you compare the standard of UK TV, the BBC and C4 in particular, with that on offer overseas. In this context, we should be proud to be only dumb amongst dumbers.
Andy, Sheffield UK

John Beyer exploits the scaremongering of the If programme for his own ends. What he does not seem to realise is that broadcasters rely so heavily on reality TV because people are watching it. Yet he seems to think those who watch are somehow "brainwashed". I don't think there will be a suicide on any reality show, yet Mr Beyer clearly does, perhaps because it suits his moral agenda to do so.
Daniel Factor, Leyton, London, United Kingdom

I generally support John Beyer's central argument about TV's eternal quest for higher ratings through the ever increasing exploitation of human conflict situations. And I am sure that, if it was made legal, we would see publicised fights to the death in no time - in between the adverts for cars and beer, of course.
Felix Rullhusen, Nottingham

Dear Brian M Keith: It's rather unfortunate that you think you "have to listen to swear words", but I can solve your problem for you. There's a little button on your remote control labelled "Power". Try pressing it when something comes on your TV that you don't want in your sitting room.
A Johnson, Enfield, UK

I got rid of my TV a couple of years ago... I haven't missed it one bit
John, Southampton
I almost overdosed on irony watching this programme. Dodgy premises and bad acting detract from a quite reasonable (if tired) debate. Utterly sensationalist and painful to watch.
Tony, London

I got rid of my TV a couple of years ago... I haven't missed it one bit. There are too many other things to do than just sit and gawp at the endless collection of "reality" TV and adverts... Although it is amusing how the TV licensing people can't seem to understand that someone might not have a telly!
John, Southampton, UK

Surely, if TV companies chase ratings, then what is broadcast is gripping stuff, because millions tune in to watch them. So the public basically likes what it gets. Personally I haven't watched anything on either the BBC channels or ITV1 for years with the single exception of the Simpsons and now that has moved to Channel 4.
Roger, UK

A few years ago I was watching approximately three hours of TV per day, Monday to Friday, and about six hours per day at weekends. Today I rarely watch TV because once you get rid of the auction programmes, the so-called reality TV programmes, the DIY/cooking/gardening programmes and the repeats there is virtually nothing left.
Michael, Lincoln

While the programme was clearly well researched and raised some good points about the future of democracy and digital media, it was unbelievably slow. Please credit us viewers with some intelligence, for example do we really need a pundit to say exactly what has just been said in the "dramatisation"? Better would have been a longer and/or less interrupted story, with more in-depth analysis in fewer places.
MorpH, London

I have stopped watching TV. The reality shows were never that bad (or as numerous as people made out); it was the makeover shows that did it for me. I only watch dramas/comedies/documentaries and they seem to have totally disappeared from TV. I just watch rented DVDs now - much better. Only the Americans are making truly great shows now.
James, London, UK

Television arrived at the bottom of the tube a long time ago. We don't have the telly on at home anymore unless the schedule has been vetted. It's too dangerous with young children in the house and anything on after 7pm is a lottery as to what the content is going to be.
Garry Smith, Oldbury, West Midlands

When I see young TV presenters with their obnoxious "street cred" voices and some of the violent and base dramas, I think to myself "Get out of my house" and turn off the TV. There is an advantage here. I get a life by doing other things. TV is a powerful medium and is subtle in swaying public opinion with slanted programmes and news. Too many people believe what they see.
Mark, Poole

To anyone who thinks analogue TV is bad, just have a look at the digital offering next time you are around at a friend's house who has it
Simon, Redhill, UK
Why the sudden obsession with reality TV? The only time I really watch telly these days is when there's Champion's League football on or pool on.

It's a constant barrage of the same programmes, same formats, same sort of presenters, same talentless attention seekers. Please make it go away and thank the inventor of DVDs!
Graham Campbell, Lossiemouth, Scotland

To anyone who thinks analogue TV is bad, just have a look at the digital offering next time you are around at a friend's house who has it.

The only decent things are the brilliant people who manage to sell rubbish on the shopping channels. Fake tan, screwdriver sets and cheap jewellery. Unmissable!
Simon, Redhill, UK

Until the television companies stop chasing ratings then television itself will continue to spiral ever downwards with "dumbing down" pursuing ever more violent and distressing viewing.

Some programmes will even be portrayed as educational, all in the name of "ratings".
Chris Kisch, Milton Keynes, UK

TV isn't "going" down the tube, it's already there!
Steve E, Staffordshire
While the series may appear to some people to be too extreme regarding certain situations of the future, I think that its contributions are most beneficial. What's important about these programmes is that they push our minds into re-activity after hours of mindless television. I applaud and praise the programme creators and can only hope to see more new episodes soon.
David Stopsky, London, UK

TV isn't "going" down the tube, it's already there! I've all but stopped watching it except for occasional wildlife and sea life programmes. I'd much rather read a book, listen to music, and go out with friends and family. People need to be encouraged to do more life-enriching things, not sitting at home, staring at a piece of furniture and watching fake friendships or fake families. Switch off the television! You can do it!
Steve E, Staffordshire, England

If...TV goes down the tube? Not with programmes of this quality.
Matthew Geffin, London, England

I think this attempt to portray the darker power of the television and mass communication future is a good step for the BBC. The BBC should strive to do more programmes that reflect issues not dealt with within everyday modern life. Tonight's issues concerning the manipulation and control the media can have is never conveyed enough to the average TV viewer.

I think the most important thing shown from the programme is that the BBC is willing to put across negative points about itself
Edwin Jefferson, Plymouth
TV down the tube was a good start at bringing these unspoken issues out more into the mainstream eye but still I was gravely disappointed when the programme was interrupted by a 10-minute barrage of BBC propaganda urging viewers to believe in the BBC and keep paying the licence fee. I feel this only ironically brought you, the BBC, into the conclusion that all television usually does abuse the power it is given.
Mark Preston, York

I think the most important thing shown from the programme is that the BBC is willing to put across negative points about itself, and this gives an unbiased view of what we see and hear from it. The comments here will be a mixture of positive and negative and, in the future, such unbiased reporting will be needed more and more if we are to avoid spin.
Edwin Jefferson, Plymouth, UK

There's no doubt that some form of independent, common decency advisory body needs to be established for many things. We don't need any more moral declinists but let's see some real people who speak our language. Come on, let's take this species further!
Andrew, South-West France

I wonder what effect certain shows will have on our "civilisation" in the years to come
Douglas Davies, Johannesburg, South Africa
We used to watch an hour or so TV (mostly BBC) most days. This past month or so we have sometimes watched the 6 o'clock news on BBC One. The rest is so sickeningly violent, tasteless and unintelligent that we would rather listen to local BBC Radio in the evenings. Once they force analogue to close down we shall not bother with a TV or licence any more. Many over 50s we know feel exactly the same.
Catherine Davies, Minehead, England

I have always wondered about the legitimacy of "freedom of speech" and its relation to television. Should we not all have the right to choose what is screened and what is not screened on the television? I wonder what effect certain shows will have on our "civilisation" in the years to come.

We have now entered the age of "I want it now" or "stimulate me". And, as is bound to be the case, when things get boring, we have to take it up a notch. That's what is happening on TV. It has to be more violent, more sexually explicit, more horrific, etc. for it to grasp and hold our attention. All I ask is, what's next?
Douglas Davies, Johannesburg, South Africa

We should worry far more if our superb quality democratic public service broadcasting service were subverted for political ends from any part of the spectrum.
Andy Millward, Broxbourne, UK

There was one thing this documentary got wrong in my opinion - the kid who videoed the conference call isn't stupid - he would have uploaded it to the internet long before the spin doctor came calling.
Matt, Croydon, Surrey, UK

Television will soon go the way of the wind-up gramophone and Pianola. There may be a few people who watch pre-recorded television programmes and old films. But mostly people will use the new digital services to watch the latest films, news, and the occasional soap. As for everyone else, they will finally get a life.
Dave, Ramsgate, England

The more the merrier - use our licence fee the way it should be used, to educate and to inform
Tony, Welling, Kent
I found your programme very interesting, especially the stuff about the internet. However it didn't discuss the regulation of advertising revenue and thus the cash flow to internet media providers. I also found one comment quite curious along the lines of: "One day a newspaper is complaining there isn't enough highbrow TV, the next day it is mocking the low viewing figures that a late night chat show on neurology gets." The BBC's job is to "sex-up" neurology, or any other ology for that matter.
Andrew, London

These programmes are very good if only to get the masses thinking. That will make us a far more active population. Questions like "who owns democracy?" are very important. So the more the merrier - use our licence fee the way it should be used, to educate and to inform.
Tony, Welling, Kent

I don't think that the standards of taste and decency have anything to do with the decline of television. TV is in decline because it's not very good. Far too many soaps, talent(less) shows, reality TV programmes and makeover shows. Not enough quality comedy, drama and live music. People are switching off in their millions and discovering that they have time for much more interesting pursuits.
Stewart, Bristol

The BBC has given us many hours of pleasure but in later years there has been a lowering of standards. Why do we have to listen to swear words? We don't use them at home and I don't want those words in my sitting room. Nudity and outright sex shown on screen shouldn't be required for a good production. Bring back quality and keep off the filth!
Brian M Keith, Ellesmere


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