Sustainable Energy – Without The Hot Air

In The UK there are now hundreds of TV channels. In the ’70s, when I was a wee lad, there were 3. All-night TV didn’t start until 1988. Back in the day they made Grown Up TV. Documentary strands like “40 Minutes” and “Arena”. Current Affairs programming like “Man Alive” and “Panorama”. Good, solid stuff that didn’t treat you like an idiot.
As the years went on TV channels had to play the Ratings Game. There’s always been mindless, populist fluff on our screens – some circus to go with our bread – but it’s the dumbing down of TV that hurts most.
There are some chinks of light. BBC2 just had the latest Adam Curtis series. Telly that feeds your head. Sky Arts is like a groovier version of BBC2 twenty years ago. More4 has some choice moments. I love BBC4. It covers a whole range of cultural subjects with style and intelligence. A Bob Dylan theme night here, a season about Africa there. OK, the BBC is lucky in that it has a huge archive going back 70 years. Your typical BBC4 documentary takes a subject, say, British Folk music, films new, intelligent interviews with Primary Source talking heads and intersperses them with classic footage. Simple, but effective. It assumes you’re an adult and doesn’t pander. I feel better after watching a BBC4 documentary. Have you ever lived abroad? I have. Italian TV makes your jaw drop in its awfulness. Scrap the license fee and see what happens.
Yes, but, what’s your point Grand Dad? Well, mainstream TV seems ever more just endless soaps, action movies, sport, chick flicks, “talent” shows, and Reality Bloody TV. We can do better but, apparently, everything has to be sexed up and formatted. Here’s my example.

Channel 4 are about to do a series about alternative energy sources. They take a family and try out new ideas in a bright, jolly, easy-to-read, gimmicky stylee. On one level that’s great: get the message out blahblah. Recently I’ve been working on a proposal to do a TV version of a book called “Sustainable Energy: Without The Hot Air”. It’s written by a very clever, engaging man called David Mackay. He’s a Professor of Psychics at Cambridge and the Chief Scientific advisor to the government in the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Here he is in action…

David is obviously keen to get his message out. Bill Gates has personally bought 2000 copies of David’s book to give to people. Harvard use it as a set text. The book looks at all our options for energy in layman’s language with all “the science bit” at the back of the book for those who understand equations, graphs, pie-charts and long numbers that make your head hurt.
The problem is that no-one wants to take a punt. Too dry. Too academic. Too geeky. Not sexy enough – Brian Cox has a lot to answer for! David says he gets humphy at the dumbing down of television and this new proposed Channel4 show is everything we want to avoid. In our accelerated culture it seems a cogent, reasonable argument (without the hot air) doesn’t fit in the mainstream and – if anything gets made at all – will end up in a ghetto somewhere. Probably filed under “Geek”.

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