The year they didn't have to make it up
MEDIA & MARKETING: From analogue farewells to Olympic torch welcomes, the media was kept busy with the surreal in 2012
Notwithstanding the fine efforts of RTÉ’s Irish Pictorial Weekly, satirists had a hard time in 2012, for the simple reason that reality was doing such a good job.
“You couldn’t make it up!” newspapers used to be fond of declaring in professional amazement. This year, they didn’t have to. Inkgate, Pastygate, Gategate. The continuing adventures of Boris Johnson, Mitt Romney and Mick Wallace. The plot of Homeland. Ciara Quinn’s wedding cake.
It was hard to know what was real, what was tedious hoax, what was elaborate wheeze and what was just Prince Harry being Prince Harry.
Did I really just watch a 40ft Voldemort puppet do battle in the Olympic Stadium with an aerial deployment of Mary Poppinses? Did Rupert Murdoch genuinely refer to hacking victims Charlotte Church and former policewoman Jacqui Hames as “scumbag celebrities”? Did MailOnline just use the phrase “quasi-masonic nexus” in a headline?
LOL FAIL OMG WTF. . . and those were just the reader response buttons on BuzzFeed.
It’s little wonder, then, with so much weirdness everywhere, that the media industry itself was a cacophony of craziness; a ventilation shaft of strange happenings.
From the Fox News US election coverage, dubbed “avalanche on bulls**t mountain” by Jon Stewart, to the crushing lack of self-awareness exhibited by Samantha “women hate me because I’m beautiful” Brick, the media lieutenants of 2012 seemed happy to spend as much time trolling for attention as they were getting on with the things that count.
But as this run-down of 12 of 2012’s most curious media moments suggests, there’s the gloriously rough-around-the-edges, and then there are things that are just, well, odd.
1 Psychic Flathan hits TV3 screens . . . and it’s all the fault of Government broadcasting policy
With “an accent that is part Zsa Zsa Gabor, part eating-something-really-hot” (copyright: Shane Hegarty), Flathan was the star performer in TV3 infomercial slot Psychic Readings Live, on which he predicted the future for premium rate callers with all the accuracy of a Daily Express weather headline.
There wasn’t long to wait between the psychics’ June debut and their destiny as the subject of multiple upheld complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and by the end of 2012, their reign of graveyard-slot telly was over. But why was this tarot-fest on screen at all? “It’s a tough market and we have to monetise our business any way we can,” said TV3 chief executive David McRedmond. “We would love to do everything we can to have higher quality programming, but in the middle of a recession, we don’t have the luxury RTÉ has to run up a deficit.”
2 Pat Rabbitte gives analogue TV viewers a parting image
Wednesday, October 24th, RTÉ – the closing minutes of the analogue television era. Enter Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, with one final contribution to make. RTÉ presenter Mary Kennedy had, seconds previously, reminisced about a girlhood spent tweaking the “rabbit’s ears” – in other words, the indoor aerial – on her family’s television. Cue Rabbitte: “Thank you very much, Mary, for that introduction, and, eh, you can tweak my ears any time.” Get a good mental picture, as Mrs Doyle would say. Indeed, if you hadn’t already upgraded to digital, mental pictures were all you had left once RTÉ ambassador Miriam O’Callaghan did the switchover honours.
3 Facebook stock market razzmatazz makes CNBC a must-watch
May 18th was a big day for business news channel CNBC – the $16 billion initial public offering (IPO) of social media’s wayward teenager, Facebook, had arrived. Its shares would be “muppet bait”, predicted Henry Blodget of BusinessInsider.com, who believed the Nasdaq stock listing was less of an investment opportunity than it was a media event.
And what a media event it was. Over at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, they were cheering and whooping like, er, billionaires. Soon after, frenzied CNBC pundits were picking over the “amateur hour” that delayed trading and then there was that awkward moment when the shares had to be propped up by its bankers. Analysts cackled with Schadenfreude.