It's time to change this tepid dishwater

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The Independent Online
Curious what makes news on a thin bank holiday Monday. The papers have been greatly exercised by my column in the Radio Times. I wrote that I thought daytime television was mainly old-fashioned tepid dishwater and patronising to its viewers. So what's new?

I called it Stupidvision because presenters, who must be reasonably intelligent people, pretend not to be so on daytime television. You can tell what they think of viewers by the way they strain to keep their own brains in constant, grinding first gear. Schedulers target the lowest common denominator, trying to scrape up every last meagre viewer with a cheap mish-mash designed to offend no-one, but probably delight no-one either.

The departure of both Good Morning with Anne and Nick, and the Pebble Mill lunchtime chat show gives the BBC a chance to think again about how to treat their daytime viewers - though the BBC is by no means the worst offender. Channel 5 will be launched next January, earmarking daytime as one of its target zones. Will they all fight one another down lower and lower in the clueless stakes? Or is it time for a clever broadcaster - like the BBC - to lift its game?

Daytime audiences are scarce - Richard and Judy saw off Anne and Nick with a mere 1.9 million viewers. That could be liberating, offering a chance to experiment, since there is less to lose if a show flops. Instead of trying to attract viewers like flies with a thin layer of cheap jam, daytime television should use the freedom for new dangerous formats and risky try-outs. Now it is a graveyard for used producers, low in prestige. Why shouldn't it be a testing ground for new talent, where anyone with a good idea gets a go?

There are some very good quirky shows. But most of the weary mornings and afternoons have a musty fly-blown aura that goes along with the dread word "housewife". At a time when even the mighty Unilever has dropped the housewife as a symbol for its washing products, the television schedulers are 20 years out of date.

Daytime television matters - the audience is diverse. There are large numbers of the early-retired who are definitely not old. There are many who work shifts, odd hours, work from home or have no work at all. But even if they are old that doesn't make them senile cabbages, nor are women at home with children imbecilic. The assumption that everyone at home is either an underclass no-hoper or a daft brush with Fairy Liquid for brains is insulting. The quality of daytime programming matters, even if it isn't the prestige end of the market. Is any of this really news?

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