The Media Column: 'Buffy came third, beaten by a vampire called Spike'

It is characteristic of the dyspeptic new editor of the Today programme, Kevin Marsh, that he should celebrate the festive season by inviting his listeners to vote to kick a fellow citizen out of the country. Initially – entering into the mean spirit of the thing – I considered casting a vote for the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre. But then I thought better of it. The question I asked myself was: where would it all end? Might I later find myself ringing premium-rate phone lines to cast my vote in dozens of the hundreds of polls being run by broadcasters, newspapers and magazines?

In my house, over the past few years, we have already voted for a ridiculous song from Estonia to win the Eurovision Song Contest; for somebody whose name eludes me to be evicted from the first Big Brother house; for Will Young to win Pop Idol; and for Tara Palmer-Tomkinson to be kept in the jungle. And that, I judge, is enough.

It's partly the BBC, through its clamorous and super-hyped investment in Fame Academy and in the Great Britons competition, that has put me off further voting. God, once they have a ratings-winning format, don't commissioners just kill it off as fast as they can through repetition? I don't want to encourage them to do it any more.

But then there's my intellectual snobbery. Why should I participate in a process that ends up with Diana, Princess of Wales, being voted a greater Briton than both Shakespeare and Darwin? Or a poll in which I can decide between a Burmese dissident and an Australian cricketer being given a citizenship for which neither has applied? On Sunday night, Channel 4 repeated its programme of the top 100 movies of all time as voted for by its viewers. Star Wars came first, miles ahead of anything by Bergman, Pasolini or Woody Allen. Buñuel, Truffaut, Renoir, Wajda and most other inconveniently foreign directors were unplaced. Pshaw!

Last week, Rod Stewart beat Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the Legend of Legends poll for the radio station Capital Gold, with 52 per cent of the votes. "Silent Night" was voted top hymn by listeners of the radio station Classic FM ("In the Bleak Midwinter" came second). The readers of a music magazine called Blender, invited to elect the "50 rock geniuses of all time", put Bob Dylan in first place, over John Lennon, Chuck Berry, Eminem and Bob Marley. Doctor Who was named as the greatest science-fiction character of all time by the consumers of SFX magazine, whose top 10 included no fewer than four characters from the American TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy herself was beaten into third place by a vampire called Spike. Bristol residents voted Wallace and Gromit their favourite Bristolians, over Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Cary Grant. Even more parochially, Only Fools and Horses was selected as the best Christmas TV programme in a poll of shoppers at a British department store.

Perhaps the best poll of all – because it was the most evidently arbitrary – was that conducted by the BBCi website, in which thousands of internet-users were invited to choose the "newsmaker of the year" from a list including Bill Clinton, Mike Tyson, Charlotte Church, Henry Kissinger and Michael Moore. Moore won; though for what reason, who can possibly tell? Perhaps he was considered a tougher boxer than Church, a sweeter soprano than Kissinger and a better lay than Tyson.

It is obvious why media people like the phone vote so much. For a start, it makes for incredibly cheap programming. The main cost is in advertising the poll. After that, the callers pay to be a tiny part of the programme. The phone poll, in that sense, has superseded the phone-in.

What is not so obvious is why the callers keep on doing it. Do we now feel some investment in Will Young because we voted for him? And what difference does it make to vote for the dead Winston Churchill as being greater than the dead Diana? Or is this the millennial equivalent of the old-fashioned riot, in which the populace could let off steam for a few hours before the yeomanry was called out? Ring this number to vote "Yes"...

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine