Television Poisoning

27.06.2012, vox populi

The main problem with Armenian media is its extreme provincialism, which is quite vividly expressed on every channel and in every program; the lack of taste, what appearance do soap operas and TV hosts have; how instead of searching for their own style, hosts assume the cliches of other countries' broadcasts; and that there are nearly no artistic, creative programs — actually professional hosts and journalists are very few. 

The reason for this is that we're quite distant from European centers of culture, from real festival, exhibit and musical life. All this can be overcome with the help of education — and by education, I don't mean the likewise style-deprived image, which the modern school has, but an alternative educational stream; the introduction of a certain creative element into school. The educational path is perhaps a slow, but radical option.

But it must be said that all around the world the state of television is not well from the perspective of taste. I cannot say that in any country television is engaged in developing or spreading good taste. But at least in some countries there are channels that, at least in terms of taste, offer an alternative, including their own productions. And the absence of at least this one good quality channel is very much felt. 

Content is also for the most part shabby. But I have to say that recently, for example, at ArmNews TV, a growth in professionalism is noticeable. You know, it's pleasant when the host is a thinking person, even if you notice that he resolves a certain dilemma, which he was confronted with earlier; that he adopts a certain policy and so on; when he is a thinker and a worthy converser with a guest of any calibre — that's a big thing. In this sense, during the past three months, ArmNews has become more interesting for me. Shoghakat TV has a program that is broadcast in beautiful and living Armenian, which is very hard to combine today.

I don't want to speak of television's educational role and the like because, after all, when a person goes to work for television, he probably doesn't have to produce a teaching degree to engage in education. But an elementary education level is required when one, for example, shoots a film or screens a film someone else shot. 

For me, it's not even significant whether slang is used in soap operas, which have become a fashionable topic, or not. Many criticize soap operas for their use of slang. Federico Fellini used slang in his films; he didn't shoot his films in the language of the Renaissance age. Any artistic means can be used if used creatively. Armenian soap operas, however, are deplorable: the acting is deplorable, the subjects are deplorable, the filmmakers leave a poor impression, and the astonishing discoveries of camera operators are likewise deplorable.

The danger here is not that morality isn't being promoted; film shouldn't have a preaching function — this isn't the issue of art. These soap operas are based on a very basic, ordinary, frequently occurring, and revolting human feature — gossip. What is the force of their gravity? Imagine, at 5:30–6:30 every day, a magical window opens in your home, you sit in front of that window and see what's happening in your neighbor's family — one hour later that window closes. The next day you run to the same place to see how things unfold in your neighbor's household. Here there is meager everyday talk and everyday substance; there's nothing artistic — that's what's terrible. Here, you find nothing, but you yourself become more deplorable than the films. 

As for local news programs, I won't say that they're late (with the news); this is understandable because a lot of money and means are needed — that's not the issue. I hold a very bad opinion of news programs all around the world because programs in which catastrophes, murders, serious political events, the marriage or romance of "stars," and earthquakes are placed on the same level, in my opinion, do great harm to the whole world. 

I'm not tempted by the fact that modern man more and more experiences a more modern flow of information, which comes so quickly on him that he doesn't even manage to develop any kind of attitude to it. So, I would say the slower, the better. The more our news programs fall behind in speed, the more our people benefit. 

It's also very important that television spares children. Sometimes it seems to me that those who develop TV programs either don't have children or have never been children themselves, because that which they do is horrible for children — particularly considering that our people don't have the culture of shutting off the TV. In no European country will you see that the TV, like a member of the family, is constantly on. In Armenia, no matter which house you enter, the TV is always on. Just as we can have the culture of watching television, so too we can have the culture of shutting it off.

Constantly leaving the TV on is the same as constantly having kebab, salad, khash, desserts, pickles, ghapama, and jam on your table, and people, even without noticing, constantly helping themselves and eating. The result is obvious — poisoning. The same type of poisoning is happening with us.

Ara Atayan
Art and culture historian

School: No. 55 school named after A. Chekhov
University: Yerevan State Institute of Theatre and Cinema
Favorite book: J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Alexandre Dumas' 20 Years After, and Knut Hamsun's Victoria
Favorite film: Frederico Fellini's Amarcord, Sergei Parajanov's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, and Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata
Favorite music: classical, medieval, national folk
Favorite sport: figure skating, volleyball
Favorite expression: "Eh(?)"

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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