The Index »

  • Is Sheryl Sandberg as good for feminism as she is for Facebook?

    May 19, 2012 @ 10:25 am | by Laura Slattery

    I can’t say I often spend my days off watching stock market tickers on TV, but that’s essentially what I found myself doing yesterday afternoon as CNBC provided some characteristically frenzied coverage of the Facebook IPO, from the Menlo Park gathering of newly minted employees to that awkward moment when its shares had to be propped up by its bankers.

    But fun as it was to watch “hoodie billionaire” Mark Zuckerberg ring the Nasdaq’s opening bell; intriguing as it was to hear the analysis of various CNBC pundits on the “first day crazies” and “amateur hour” that delayed trading; my interest in all-things-Facebook is rapidly boiling down to one question: how important is Sheryl Kara Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, to feminism?

    Sandberg is more accurately described as a female business role model than a feminist per se. The first qualification is not in doubt. She is the fifth most powerful woman in the world, according to the business magazine Forbes. CNN describes her as Zuckerberg’s “right-hand woman” and “the number two”, and though she does not currently have a seat on the board of Facebook, she may well do soon enough – in any case, she moonlights as an independent director of the Walt Disney Company.

    While she may not be granted the “genius” tag reserved for company founders, she’s commonly referred to as “the grown-up” at the company; the one who looks after, what’s that, oh yes, the figuring out how to make money bit. David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, believes that if Zuckerberg hadn’t hired Sandberg from Google in 2008, the company’s flotation would never have happened. Kirkpatrick also thinks Sandberg, an ex-Treasury employee, could be US president one day. “She’s got it. She’s got the whole package,” he told CNN.

    Whether President Sandberg ever does take up residency in the Oval Office, I think it’s fair to assume that everything she says publicly is uttered with political aspirations in mind. And in this context, it is a relief that Sandberg, like would-be president Hillary Clinton, tends to be vocal on gender issues.

    What she actually says doesn’t exactly read like a feminist manifesto 100 per cent of the time. She’s dismissive of the need for affirmative action, for example – not that that’s a crime – and has attributed women’s lack of progress to limits that they place on themselves, rather than the barriers posed by corporate sexism. She’s risen so high she can’t see any evidence of a glass ceiling beneath her. Indeed, both The Atlantic and Nerve.com have teased through the minuses of Sandberg’s gender philosophy – the key article they both draw on is this brilliant long-read New Yorker profile from July last year.

    But Sandberg isn’t the first and won’t be the last to argue that power is something that’s meant to be taken, not something you sit around waiting for someone to give to you. And you don’t have to be rich enough to employ a nanny, as Sandberg and her husband do, to be able to take basic advice such as “make sure your partner [at home] is a real partner”.

    Speaking of home, Sandberg recently claimed she leaves work at 5.30 pm every day to go to hers and have dinner with her children, an admission that won a generally positive response. She shouldn’t, of course, feel in any way obliged to counter the snipes of the anti working mother brigade by highlighting traditionally feminine domestic duties. But on balance it’s terribly healthy that a senior female Silicon Valley executive doesn’t feel the need to keep family life hidden away as a great unmentionable. Sandberg is a mother as well as an elite businesswoman – her subtext was clearly that she goes home at a reasonable hour because she’s super-efficient at her job.

    Unsurprisingly, she is now much in demand as a speaker on the US college commencement address circuit. Here’s a quote from a speech she gave to graduating students of the college Barnard last year: “A world where men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions would be just a much better world.”

    Feminism is a broad church, with plenty of room for semantic debate. But to my ears that ranks as one of the most feminist statements you’re likely to get out of a millionaire (soon-to-be-billionaire) businesswoman. Though Sandberg’s actions, beliefs and life experiences are inevitably going to be as much if not more influenced by her immense wealth than the fact that she possesses female anatomy, I’m still glad Zuckerberg chose a woman to be his number two.

    It’s not hard to like Sheryl a hell of a lot more than Facebook itself.

  • Purple is over as a colour and it’s all the fault of Ed Miliband, Heathrow and Yahoo!

    May 5, 2012 @ 10:00 am | by Laura Slattery

    Watching political leaders give game soundbites to news reporters covering the UK elections has left me sure of one thing: the colour purple is so finished.* Purple used to be cool. It was the colour of Cadbury; of Silk Cut; of clothes worn outside wine-and-navy-and-grey shaded school hours. It is also the colour of royalty and, according to playground humour (ho, ho, ho), the colour of sexual frustration.

    I used to love it. Now I think it’s an away strip of a colour.** Purple is the choice of politicians desperately trying to avoid the naff fate of wearing their party colours. So Nick Clegg, when he’s sick of wearing an obvious yellow tie, wears a deep purple one; Ed Miliband and David Cameron regularly contrive to ditch their respective party shades of red and blue for an apolitical hue that’s halfway between the two.

    The only things that rival silky political ties for purple-ness are corporate liveries, lobbies and logos. Eircom and VHI Healthcare both go for the purple-and-orange combo. Purple is also the colour of Yahoo! – former CEO Jerry Yang claimed on resigning his post that he would “always bleed purple” – and it’s the colour of the older signage at fraying-at-the-seams Heathrow. So that’s Eircom (in examinership), VHI (not exactly in the black, financially), Yahoo! (famous for not being Google) and Heathrow (there’s plenty of time to ponder its colour schemes when you’re stuck in its “unacceptable” border queues).

    Purple is also the colour of Hallmark, of Greenstar skips, of TV3, of Premier Inn and of try-hard E4. It was the colour of the sofas on ITV’s breakfast show Daybreak for the first few months of its flopped launch. And it’s set to be the colour of the “Boris Pods” that will be dotted around London during the Olympics to help confused tourists and ticketholders find their way to the toilets. It’s over-exposed.

    Purple is still the colour of Cadbury, which has even trademarked one shade of it, Pantone 2865c to be precise. This was much to the chagrin of Nestlé, which went to court so it could keep using a similar colour in its Quality Street assortment – you know, on the wrapper of the one everyone loves even though it’s got a hazelnut in it. But iconic confectionery is the exception that proves the rule. As long as corporate marketing departments and the over-thinking image consultants who dress politicians continue to embrace it, the colour purple will be worth about as much in fashion terms as it is in snooker.

    * Yes, this is a side issue, but, I think you’ll find, a vitally important one. ** Magenta is still okay.

  • Operation Transformation at RTÉ might be unavoidable, but slimming down is not going to be pleasant

    March 30, 2012 @ 8:00 am | by Laura Slattery

    Fewer imported programmes, even less sport and constraints on independent commissions – the financial pressures on RTÉ, bubbling beneath the surface throughout recent scandals, will soon be clearly visible on screen, as director general Noel Curran’s blueprint for the future takes “unavoidable” chunks out of programming budgets. Those announced yesterday – a 25 per cent slash in the sports rights budget and a 10 per cent cut in the budget for overseas acquisitions – will not be the last. “Additional target-led reductions” are currently being identified across all divisions: television, radio, news and digital.

    Cuts in “star” salaries dominate the headlines for two reasons: because they bring the saga of RTÉ back to the level of celebrity Schadenfreude; and because six-digit fees to presenters – some of them talented, some of them over-rated, some of them both talented and over-rated – are symbolic of the lunacy of the boom.

    But while it might be entirely proper to target the pay of the highest paid on-camera faces, there’s also off-screen remuneration to think about. As they sit down after Easter to discuss what Curran indicated would be “significant” changes to work practices, the group of unions at RTÉ will presumably be equally interested in hearing about the kind of sacrifices being made by the broadcaster’s boss class.

    In any case, the biggest saving in Curran’s €25 million plan comes from the €15 million expected to be generated by a new voluntary redundancy scheme, which this time around has a more attractive offer for staff who are members of RTÉ’s defined contribution pension scheme. The current redundancy scheme is more attractive for longer-serving employees who have defined benefit pensions. This scheme has been taken up by 170 employees to date and more are scheduled to leave by the summer. But personnel costs at RTÉ, which still employs 1,900 people, continue to account for half of its cost base. It is hoped that at least another 200 employees will drive out the gate.

    Meanwhile, as RTÉ Television’s heads of department prepare to make their case for which programmes should be re-commissioned for the coming seasons and which should be quietly axed, they will do so in an environment where any and all cuts will contribute to plugging RTÉ’s operating deficit, projected to reach €20 million this year. Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte made it clear to the board last month that it cannot simply continue to stay in the red, and so a turbulent 18 months, marked by whispers, goodbye parties and fractured morale, lies ahead.

    It is clear that news and current affairs, though it resides smack in the middle of RTÉ’s “core” public service responsibilities, won’t entirely escape the hurt. The broadcaster currently operates separate Irish language reporting staff for Raidió na Gaeltachta and the Nuacht programmes on its main stations, while TG4 also runs its own news department – some rationalisation is to be expected here and across its entire regional output, though there are promises that output levels will be maintained.

    The impact of shutting down its London office – which has the misfortune from its departing staff’s point of view to double as a prime rental property in pricey Millbank – is yet to be ascertained, though it seems that RTÉ is at least contemplating a future where British affairs are covered out of Dublin or Belfast. Curran will argue that these are “efficiencies” rather than retreats in coverage.

    Arguably, the potential ramifications of cuts in sports rights and imports won’t make a material difference to most viewers. An RTÉ without, say, Champions’ League football matches? Tune into ITV’s coverage or wait for TV3 to snap up the rights. An RTÉ without acquisitions of acclaimed series like Homeland, or indeed not-so-acclaimed series like Pan Am? Watch them on Channel 4 or the BBC or the internet or DVD instead. A schedule more frequently and cleverly filled with repeats? Groansome and convenient in more or less equal measure.

    With the squeeze coming on both its commercial and public sources of funding, RTÉ will want to tick enough boxes on public service output – news, children’s shows, arts and religious affairs programming – even as it strives to keep prized ratings bankers on its schedules. Entertainment formats like The Voice of Ireland and weight-loss reality show Operation Transformation have performed well of late, while both The Late Late Show and The Saturday Night Show boast appealing cost-per-viewer ratios. But maintaining a balance between pays-for-itself programming and mandate-satisfying budget-eaters will not be any easier in an austerity-bound Montrose, while independent commissioning budgets, already dented, are likely to be targeted again.

    One of the problems with cutbacks on the commissioning side is that you can never quite predict where your next hit will come from. And if you commission next to nothing, it will never arrive. RTÉ’s biggest ratings success over the past 12 months has, somewhat unexpectedly, been a sitcom, and an old-fashioned slapstick sitcom at that. Mrs Brown’s Boys, a co-production between BBC Scotland and BocPix in association with RTÉ, comfortably out-rated the Late Late during its second run. Curran will now be hoping that the show’s forthcoming third series is the only painful farce at Montrose between now and the end of 2013.

  • Raced through the Mahon report already? Indulge in these long reads instead

    March 22, 2012 @ 2:36 pm | by Laura Slattery

    The fifth and final report of the Mahon Tribunal is 3,270 pages long, which would certainly pass the time during all but the most problematic of toilet visits. It follows in the glorious tradition of these notoriously long documents, in which every word is no doubt a keeper.

    1. War and Peace: The 1869 multi-volume Leo Tolstoy classic is ironically used as shorthand for “epic” publications. Its first edition had 1,225 pages, which is 63 per cent shorter than Mahon. But which one has the most jokes? (Probably the Russian.)

    2. The US tax code (and most of its counterparts): Accountants presumably have mixed feelings about the unwieldiness of the average tax code, which justifies their fees even as it costs them 80 per cent of their eyesight just to do a preliminary scan. The US version runs to more than 72,000 pages long.

    3. Facebook’s privacy policy: This runs to 5,830 words, which can be summarised as “we don’t believe in privacy, to be honest”. Pithy by Tolstoy standards, then, but as the company’s critics have helpfully pointed out, also somewhat less concise than the US Constitution.

    4. Steve Jobs: A Biography: At 600-plus pages, Walter Isaacson’s book, published soon after the Apple founder’s death, is “an encyclopaedic survey of all that Mr Jobs accomplished”, according to the New York Times review. The trouble is he accomplished a lot.

    5. The Moriarty Tribunal report: At a mere 2,348 pages, Mr Justice Moriarty was brevity personified in his final report compared to Mr Justice Mahon. Or maybe the latter just found 40 per cent more corruption. Who can yet say? Only the speed-reading masochist community.

  • They said no good would come of Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury

    March 12, 2012 @ 4:00 pm | by Laura Slattery
    Philadelphia and Cadbury…. they go together like chocolate and cheese

    And they were right. Here it is, the union between Kraft’s Philadelphia cream cheese brand and Cadbury milk chocolate, essentially Kraft’s attempt to take on the reigning king of spreads, Nutella. Good luck with that. Toddlers and Nutella are not to be kept apart, and not even the mighty Kraft and the comic talents of Jennifer Saunders, who is fronting its reverse-psychology marketing campaign, can alter that. Surely.

    Chocolate cheesecake lovers will quibble, but they will be wrong. The combination of hazelnut and chocolate is so obviously superior to a cream cheese / milk chocolate mash-up, that I suspect Pietro Ferrero will be turning in his grave at Kraft’s latest product launch. Ferrero, according to the company’s website, “founded” what later became known as Nutella in a backroom of a pastry shop in Alba, Northern Italy, in 1944. It was, surprisingly, an austerity foodstuff. War had made chocolate, among other luxury items, expensive and difficult to obtain, so Ferrero used locally grown hazelnuts to make alternative spreads.  ”Nutella, spread on bread, has become an essential element to the breakfast ritual,” the company claims, not unreasonably. (I prefer it rolled in the folds of pancakes myself.)

    Ferrero, which also makes Tic Tacs, Kinder products and (naturally) Ferrero Rocher, is a privately held company that does okay for itself, though it lost one of its joint chief executives (Pietro Ferrero, grandson of the founder) when he died cycling while working on a corporate social responsibility initiative last year. The acquisition-shy family firm did ponder making a counter-offer for Cadbury, but stepped back, wary of the debt, leaving it to be devoured by Kraft and its spread-ambitions. The first of the ads is genuinely funny thanks to Saunders, but I can see plenty of shoppers simply agreeing with her ad persona’s ”Choccy Philly / don’t be silly” line and failing, like her, to be converted against the odds. And only a fool would bet against the wartime genius that is Nutella.

  • Thank you and hello: The Sun rises for a seventh day

    February 20, 2012 @ 1:08 pm | by Laura Slattery

    “This is not the weather forecast…” reads the front-page Sun “exclusive” this morning as it promises that there will be an Irish Sun next Sunday. Actually it reads “THIS IS NOT THE WEATHER FORECAST… IRISH SUN NEXT SUNDAY”, to be more precise. Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants are doing what nobody except News International and passing Russian oligarchs would contemplate these days: they’re launching a printed newspaper.

    Notwithstanding the double-digit circulation declines in the UK Sunday newspaper market – and glossing over for one moment the fact that nine current and former Sun journalists have been arrested in connection with alleged illegal payments to public officials – Murdoch’s manoevre is not all that bizarre (no pun intended).

    While the speedy demise of the News of the World last July took thousands of readers out of the market, if any publication can recapture it, it’s likely to be the Sun on Sunday – though not, perhaps, in Liverpool. For all the public opprobrium, readers never got a chance last summer to prove they were serious about boycotting the News of the World, and in any case the shared parentage of the Sun seems unlikely to prove a problem for most readers seven months on.

    Maintaining a seven-day operation at the Sun is also likely to prove substantially cheaper on labour costs than the old Sun / News of the World system, which is why rumours of a seven-day Sun were circulating long before the Guardian published its story on the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone. Even if it’s not a commercial success, it has already achieved an instant public relations goal for Murdoch, allowing him to  ”move the story on” from last week’s narrative of civil war and crumbling empires.

    So is the arrival of the Sun on Sunday a good thing? Ever since the idea was floated that the weekday Sun might go the way of the News of the World, people employed elsewhere in the media (and bet-hedging politicians) have been happy to declare that the loss of another newspaper – yes, even one that brought us “WHITNEY’S DEATH BATH” – would not be in the public interest. It would even be bad for democracy, given how much “good campaigning journalism” was apparently squeezed in between the breasts.

     Such intra-industry solidarity was too much for one Guardian feature writer, who tweeted, “to all those saying it’s either the Sun or Pravda: come off it”. Indeed. Democracy, I’m guessing, would muddle along pretty much the same with one less Murdoch newspaper. If anything, ”the moment of evangelical release” in the House of Commons last summer - as Hacked Off campaign founder Brian Cathcart phrased it – suggested that a weaker Murdoch would probably be a good thing for British democracy.

    The launch of the Sun on Sunday means it’s pretty much a case of “as you were”. As for Rupert himself, his one tweet on the arrival of his latest print baby was this: “Just for the record: Newscorp shares up 60c on news of Sun on Sunday. Highest for year.”

    Phew, eh.

  • New Valentine’s Day rule: only single people get to use the phrase “Hallmark holiday”

    February 14, 2012 @ 8:00 am | by Laura Slattery

    Everyone knows e-cards aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on, but it’s the printed greeting cards industry that gets a proper hard time from people who think mass-produced sincerity is incompatible with how they truly feel. A “Hallmark holiday” is shorthand for dates in the year when naysayers feel guilt-tripped into buying anodyne stuff for the long-term parkers in their lives, and, let’s face it, sometimes it’s just easier to profess repulsion than it is to come up with consumption-free alternatives to mark the occasion.

    Statistically, you are 2,874 times more likely to hear the sneer “Hallmark holiday” applied to Valentine’s Day than to Mother’s Day. Happily, today is Valentine’s Day, so people who consider themselves blissfully paired off but can’t be bothered to go to the shops can simply blurt “Hallmark holiday” in the hope that it all goes away. It probably won’t though. Hallmark is a $4 billion company – a privately owned, Kansas-based king of sales, manufacturing and intellectual property licensing – and it will take more than a recession, a few thousand personalisation apps and a dollop of ennui to unravel it all.

    The “Hallmark holiday” declarers can come across like they believe they’re pointing to some covert retail conspiracy, as if the people who brought us Purple Ronnie and the Cessna-themed “brother” birthday card are engaged in a devious scheme to manipulate our innermost emotions and only they are resolute enough to stand alone from its saccharine tendrils.

    Perhaps that is a more accurate reflection of what’s going on than American Greetings’ description of itself as “a creator and manufacturer of innovative social expression products that assist consumers in enhancing their relationships”. So far, so Facebook. American Greetings, by the way, is the second largest publisher of greeting cards in the world and parent company of such brands as Carlton Cards, Gibson Greetings and Camden Graphics. But “American Greetings holiday” just doesn’t trip off the tongue quite so fast.

    The point is, you only have to have endured one solo February 14th deep in a post-break-up mire to know this: While the sight of slow-walking couples holding hands, heart-shaped helium balloons, ribbon-collared teddy bears and/or cupid’s milk chocolate arrow as they hold up pathway traffic may indeed be gut-wrenching for several reasons, there’s nothing more irksome to a single person than the trill of a coupled-up person who casually asserts the meaningless of the day even as they’re promising their mobiles that yes, they can vacate the table by nine.

    In any case, the Hallmark sentiment-behemoth might have helped popularise Valentine’s Day cards, but it didn’t invent them. The practice of sending cards predates the founding of the company by at least 60 years – a factoid worth keeping in your back pocket if your partner turns out to be a tedious Valentine’s curmudgeon but you haven’t reached that level of jadedness yet. The Hall brothers did lay claim to having invented modern gift wrapping paper, though, so they’re not entirely innocent. And if your partner is allergic to red envelopes, remember to keep some sense of perspective.  It could be worse. They could be “more of a savoury person”.

  • A centenary to remember: Titanic on screen

    January 31, 2012 @ 8:00 am | by Laura Slattery

    Glossing aside for one moment, or indeed forever more, the ever-so-slight contradiction in celebrating a feat of engineering that rather swiftly became a byword for disaster, April 15th marks 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic, and more cash-ins abound than there were passengers on board. From the shipyards of Belfast to the decades of survivors’ guilt that followed, expect the story of this all-too-sinkable ship to make regular appearances on your television and cinema screens this spring. Here are just five of the Titanic-themed offerings sending maritime thrills and chills your way:

    1. Titanic 3D. Jack! Rose! Jack! Rose! You remember this one, from director and Titanic obsessive James Cameron. Travel back in time to 1912 / 1997 to watch a boyish Leonardo di Caprio declare himself “king of the world” in full retro-fitted 3D glory, his arms stretching out into the cinema from the bow of the ship. Marvel as the stern rises in the air and plunges into the ocean, bodies hurtling off the sides and water lapping over the heads of your fellow cinema-goers. And pause to note how Kate Winslet’s survival is indeed a historically accurate reflection of the ship’s “women and children first” policy. It’s due out April 6th… you know you want to.

    2. Titanic: Blood and Steel. Directed by Ciaran Donnelly and filmed in both Dublin and Serbia, this 12-part mini-series sounds like it has the biggest potential tourism “ker-ching” for Belfast. Rather than concentrating on the ill-fated maiden voyage itself, the action starts in 1897, telling the story of the ship’s 15-year construction in Edwardian Belfast. Expect to hear dialogue that goes a bit like this (only more authentically Edwardian)… Harland and Wolff shipyard manager: “But, sir, the ship’s capable of carrying 64 lifeboats!” J Bruce Ismay, White Star Line president: “Bloody hell, that’s a bit pricey. Happily, we’re only legally required to carry a quarter of that amount.”

    3. Titanic. This four-part UK / Canada  / Hungary co-production is scripted by Julian “Downton Abbey” Fellowes, so expect the upstairs-downstairs angle to be propelled to the fore. It boasts an impressive cast, including Toby Jones, David Calder, Lyndsey Marshal, Linus Roache, Geraldine Somerville, James Wilby, Peter Wight, Celia Imrie and Ireland’s own Maria Doyle Kennedy. Due to be simulcast on ITV1 and TV3 on Thursdays starting from April 12th, this really does contain the famous last words “we’ll never need lifeboats for every passenger” – the trailer, which modestly describes the show as “the television event of 2012”, is now on YouTube. Let’s hope it’s more original than its title.

    4. Saving the Titanic. Announced as part of RTÉ’s spring schedule, Saving the Titanic is a drama documentary  focusing on the “engine room heroes” who worked to keep the electric power running as the ship sank – their sacrifice not only kept the lights on, but meant the electric lifeboat winches remained operational, allowing others to survive. The docudrama, co-produced by Ireland’s Tile Films and Germany’s GebruederBeetzFilmproduktion, is based on eye-witness accounts of nine engineers who worked among the coal-fired furnaces and massive dynamos to satisfy the ship’s demand for electricity. It will be shown at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on February 17th.

    5. Titanic and Me. The BBC’s contribution to the genre, this documentary series is presented by Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman, who aspires to “delve beyond the Hollywood myths and into the lives of the families who struggled with the loss of husbands, wives, sons and daughters”. Given the last surviving passenger of the Titanic died in 2009, testimonies come from descendants “for whom the Titanic is part of family folklore”. Shot in Southhampton and Northern Ireland, the three half-hour episodes have been made for the BBC by Derry-based history specialists 360 Production. What’s Len Goodman got to do with all of this? Well, he used to be a welder at Harland and Wolff – so there.

    And if all of these tragic delights leave you iceberg-cold, well there’s always Bee Gee Robin Gibb’s classical music tribute, Titanic Requiem.

  • Television in Ireland: the next 50 years revealed

    December 31, 2011 @ 11:36 am | by Laura Slattery

    Even if you don’t own a television, you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot about the 50th anniversary of television in Ireland over the next few days. It will go something like this: Seán Lemass… well Holy God… one for everyone in the audience… okey-doke… #JeanByrne. But enough of all this rampant nostalgia: what about the next 50 years? Here’s a run-down of events as they are likely to happen.

    2012: Analogue television is switched off, leaving snowy screens in households where the grand-kids forgot to bring round a Saorview set-top box. Audience ratings for Nationwide plummet.

    2013: Eamon Ryan wins the first ever series of Celebrity Mastermind and uses the glory of victory to relaunch the Green Party. The format is not renewed.

    2014: The Late Late Show viewer ratings are decimated as TV3 schedule a Friday night Irish version of Total Wipeout, hosted by Georgia Salpa.

    2016: RTÉ drops the Angelus and attempts to placate furious fans of middle-distance stares by making it available as an app for owners of Smart TVs.

    2017: There’s relief for Dave Fanning as he finally gets to the end of a question he started asking Michael Stipe on 2TV in 1995.

    2020: A TV3 documentary on breastfeeding falls foul of Apple TV’s terms and conditions on pornography and is removed from the TV3 channel app, sparking a public outcry. TV3 successfully appeals the decision. A publicity stunt is suspected.

    2021: After a landslide “yes” vote in that year’s referendum, it becomes a criminal offence to quote from a Financial Regulator TV ad that ran during the Noughties.

    2023: The labour market is inundated with unfeasibly chirpy continuity announcers who are laid off en masse after Irish media companies declare that no one watches “linear” television anymore.

    2027: Rigorous consumer research reveals that the phrase “roll it there, Róisín” has faded from the collective folk memory, although nursing homes are full of people still banging on about someone called Sally O’Brien.

    2029: As property prices make a return to “2007 levels”, RTÉ sells Montrose. The demolition goes smoothly, aside from a last minute protest by Charlie Bird. Within months, there is no evidence that RTÉ was ever located there, although the new owners confess to being spooked by the occasional sight of a flying vehicle later identified as the Wanderly Wagon.

    2032: After one cutback in the newsroom budget too many, Bryan Dobson has a “Network” moment. He is replaced by Craig Doyle.

    2036: TV3 admits it’s not the “real” Vincent Browne who hosts its late-night current affairs show, but a digitally generated avatar programmed to raise its voice in response to a fixed list of trigger words. The channel’s press office declines to specify when exactly the switch was made.

    2043: The analogue-era game-show Where in the World is relaunched as Where in the Solar System as the format is updated for the age of cheap commercial space travel. The losers are sent on a one-way trip to ex-planet Pluto.

    2045: Shortly after Christmas, RTÉ shows the vintage film 2046 as its Midweek Movie, even though the title refers to a hotel room number and not a calendar year.

    2061: As a series of virtual-reality riots tear a rip in the space-time continuum on the eve of Irish television’s centenary, the RTÉ News Channel is criticised for failing to provide live coverage of Ireland’s descent into a black hole. It opts instead to stick with a repeat of Reeling in the Years.

  • You don’t really know me at all, do you?

    December 14, 2011 @ 9:00 am | by Laura Slattery

    All I want for Christmas is a Christmas gift guide that acknowledges the tat as well as the treasure. Instead I’m forced to shun their glossy pages for fear I might absorb their array of snowflake-pattern hot-water bottle covers, retro cake-stands and pen holders in the shape of giant pencil sharpeners and fall in consumer lust… It’s likely to happen, even though I don’t use hot-water bottles, already possess a retro cake-stand and am capable of rationalising the pen holder in the shape of a giant pencil sharpener as an office stationery joke of limited lifespan.

    It’s a tricky business, gift-giving subjectivity. For example, 66 per cent of people think the “keep calm and carry on” meme, and all products emblazoned with versions thereof, is a sloganeering ship that’s sailed, but 85 per cent of people think that’s just a #madeupstat. All of which makes it important to highlight the dark side of gift exchange; the faux pas presents; the “you don’t really know me at all” moments. It’s crazy what you could have had, as REM used to sing before they broke up and released a greatest hits collection just in time for the Christmas market. With that cheery thought of seasonal dissatisfaction in mind, here are my top three “must not buys” for 2011.

    Tulisa’s TFB The Female Boss Eau de Parfum – Celebrities have never been known for lending their names to the world’s finest colognes, but this fragrance could waft like a bed of delicate lavender infused with only the finest top notes from the meadows of heaven and I still wouldn’t want its scent anywhere near my wrists. It’s the title that grates – the “female boss”, so exotic a creature she merits her own olfactory trademark. Tulisa Contostavlos’s controversial arm gesture at the start of the X Factor, showing off a tattoo of those three words, not only attracted the ire of UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, but also had the effect of making Cheryl Cole’s walking hair advertisement for L’Oréal seem subtle. So it’s a no from me, but with the obvious deep regret that Tulisa’s sometime band colleague Dappy has not yet brought out an aftershave called The Male Boss. And as X Factor viewers will know, Tulisa’s Little Muffins are not, sadly, edible.

    Top Gear: The Stig Soap on a Rope – The Stig is that enigmatic bloke who poses on Top Gear in a dark-visored helmet and all-white motor racing suit, like a Michelin man after a life-changing diet, only not as cool. The story of the Stig is in fact a sorry legal tale that came to a head last year when Formula Three driver Ben Collins won a court case against the BBC after the broadcaster tried to prevent him publishing a book that identified him as the anonymous Stig. So it would be fun if as the layers of soap peeled away, the helmet revealed a miniature human head, rather than reaching its presumable destiny as a greying alkaline clump of indeterminate profession, dangling from the temperature dial. The Stig’s shower gel recently stood defiantly on the bargain shelves of my local Tesco for weeks, proving that not even puberty is a compelling excuse for a personal hygiene range trading off the snarls of Jeremy Clarkson.

    BBC DVD of The Royal Wedding: William and Catherine – Ah, Kate and Wills, bless. The dress! The abbey! The bridesmaid’s backside! Relive all those romantic moments from last April on this special DVD from the BBC. Pause and rewind to see if Amy Huberman was actually there. Marvel over the construction of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s new nose. Did Samantha Cameron really not wear a hat? These were good times… or at least they were over on ITV, where reliable old Philip Schofield and company proved more willing and able to first identify and then gossip about the celebrity guests en route to their pews than the stiff-upper-lip BBC with its stream of constitutional experts, royal historians and awkward silences. So if royal wedding memorabilia is your thing, make sure to request the ITV highlights – or better still, drop hints about the charms of the made-for-TV movie version. It’s a bit like Made in Chelsea, only based on a true story.

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