Joe Hendren

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Friday, December 24, 2004

TV: Phone in Polls and 'Loud' Advertisements

Found a couple of interesting discussions over at ReinventingTVNZ

1. The Fallacy of Phone in Polls
It pleased me greatly to read on Span's blog that someone has finally lodged an official broadcasting complaint over the presenters drawing inappropriate conclusions from the ‘results’ of phone in polls.

Despite their veneer of democracy, phone in polls are a form of plutocracy, a mere ‘democracy of disposable income’.

In the context of this complaint, it would be very interesting if someone asked a parliamentary question asking how much income TVNZ gained from the use of such polls. It may be harder to get such information out of a private broadcaster such as TV3, but the exposure of the TVNZ figure would be a useful thing to bully them with. At 99c a call (at least) it probably represents a nice little earner. It would also be interesting to find out how many phone numbers calling the Close Up at 7 polls were registered as coming from Parliament Buildings! I bet it’s more than a few.

It may be going a bit far, but it has concerned me for a while that these polls may lead to an erosion of people’s expectations of democracy. If phone in polls become an accepted way of gauging public opinion, and Susan Wood's comments on such polls encourage this, how long is it before it is suggested that such polls may be a way to ‘encourage participation’ in more serious polls over local body issues, even elections themselves?? Free and fair would not even come into it, and such polls would be at the mercy of a cynical public relations industry.

And who started this scourge of democratic plastic? As I remember, the first programme to heavily push phone in polling was….Big Brother. So I blame Big Brother.

2. The Ads Are Too Bloody Loud
I have always wondered why TV advertising usually seems louder than the programming. As it is annoying, I assumed it was a deliberate ploy to make people pay more attention to the ads. I find Sky One an especially offensive offender, as even its station promos seem 'loud'. Even with the lightening use of the mute button, I often find the sudden two second long blast of sound uncomfortable. It’s the sudden change, not the volume that is the problem.

Apparently this effect is caused by advertising producers applying a form of ‘audio compression’ so there is more sound power in the range where the ear is most sensitive, in order to increase its audible impact. The broadcasting standards authority in Australia is apparently looking at this issue. Our broadcasting authorities should look at it too.

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