Well is that what it’s going to be then?

by John Boland

LAUNCHING ITS programming schedule yesterday, TV3’s slogan was simple: A Choice for Viewers, An Opportunity for Advertisers.Well, is that what it’s going to be? Time, of course, will tell, but if it doesn’t provide a choice for viewers when it goes on air this September, it won’t be in a position to provide an opportunity for advertisers, who’ll rightly shrug: why bother advertising when no-one can be bothered watching?

So the viewer comes first, which means you and I. Or perhaps it doesn’t, because TV3 is avowedly targeting “the 15-44 age group with a psychological make-up of Affluent Acquirers, Liberal Sophisticates, Young Aspirers and Comfy Full Nesters.”

This is ad-speak (note the capitalising) and I’ve no idea what it means, though I’ve a fair idea what TV3 thinks it means attracting the kind of hazily-defined audience that keeps turning up in advertising agency profiles of the ideal consumer: the Young Turks (sorry, Celtic tigers) who are so busy schmoozing in Pravda and Cafe en Seine that they’ve no time to go home and sit in front of a television set.

PROGRAMMING

Penetrate the gobbledegook, however, and what you get in blunt terms is that TV3 doesn’t want an audience consisting of people who don’t or can’t afford to spend money on whatever product it is that an advertiser wants to sell. Therefore it doesn’t want young children (unless they’ve got affluent parents), it doesn’t want the old, it doesn’t want the unemployed or poor.

So alright, it wants the product-oriented 15 to 44s (though what’s wrong with the 13s and 50s, both of whom have healthy consumer appetites?), but what’s it actually offering them?

Not an awful lot, by the look of its planned schedule. It talks big (“TV3 is aware of the cultural importance of indigenous programming”; “TV3 will provide programming which is relevant to, and reflective of, the needs of a contemporary Irish community”), but it thinks small.

We already knew that in its first year it was only obliged to devote 15pc of its schedule to home-produced programmes, but actual details of what this domestic programming might be like weren’t forthcoming yesterday (beyond an assurance that the Irish news will be “fast-paced, fresh and relevant” as opposed to slow-witted, dull and irrelevant), and so we’re left to consider the 85pc of imported programmes, details of which do give some sense of the new channel’s tone.

That tone seems very like what can be encountered on Sky One, whose chief virtue for most of us is that it offers a nightly dose of The Simpsons. Alas, The Simpsons aren’t on TV3 (RTE snapped them up long ago); instead there are series with such Sky Oneish titles as Thailand Backpackers, Mafia Women, The World’s Most Incredible Animal Rescues, The World’s Most Dangerous Animals, The World’s Deadliest Volcanoes and Here Comes the Bride, There Goes the Groom. Indeed, there are shows that have already been screened on Sky One: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Early Edition, Mad About You. This last is a superior American sitcom, and there are other good series, too, such as ITV’s Touching Evil and (if you’re that way inclined) Eastenders. But do you really want to see Love Boat the Next Wave or a follow-up to that hard-man 1970s series, The Professionals, with Edward Woodward in place of Gordon Jackson and with Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins nowhere in sight?

Perhaps you do and perhaps you’ll also want to see some of the promised movies, which include Heat (very good), The Quick and the Dead (very bad), Natural Born Killers (very, very, very bad) and Mother Teresa: In the Name of God’s Poor, with Geraldine Chaplin as the saintly heroine.

Football fans will, no doubt, be interested that TV3 has acquired exclusive rights to fifteen of the nineteen qualifying matches in Group Eight of Euro 2000, including all of Ireland’s away matches.

That should generate a considerable audience, and it’s to be hoped that some of the commissioned domestic programmes will, too. These will include an afternoon show “focussing on the housekeeper issues of the day,” a lifestyle show that’s “a super secret so radical we’d have to shoot you if we told you.” (Oh, for God’s sake), music shows, and a show called On Your Bike, which is “around Ireland with a difference, but definitely not a travel show.”

What is it then? We don’t yet know. But from the 85pc we do know, we seem to be getting a terrestrial channel with satellite values. Ironic, then, that BSkyB seem intent on spoiling the party with its plan to begin screening separate ad breaks in Ireland next autumn aimed at the Irish consumer.

In other words, TV3’s “opportunity for advertisers” might well get hijacked by the Sky that seems to have no limit. That wouldn’t be the best of starts.

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