Even without having the nostalgia of communism, there are people that regret the TV programmes of the ‘70s, as they were broadcast before the switch to only two hours of broadcast, dedicated 100 pc to the Ceausescu family. Of course, the comparison with the avalanche of various programmes available today does not stand. But, in those years, TV watchers also were offered some education, besides news, consumer events, sensational and showbiz. Tuesday was the evening of theatrical plays, Wednesday was for western movies, the ‘Dallas’ ran on Saturdays, while Sunday was reserved for entertainment shows featuring great Romanian actors. Now, over 20 years from the fall of the communist regime, the media market has a completely different look. The citizen receives what he is supposed to enjoy, most often morbid news, ‘gallant’ affairs in the spotlight of the media, commercial films with happy-end after dozens of ‘baddies’ left this world, entertainment shows about/with showbiz stars that have no trouble speaking profanities, one-night stars that still learn the alphabet, and contest-shows on obscene themes.
Meanwhile, even the public television has stopped airing theatrical plays. The attempt of a private television to promote such plays in the prime time interval ended after just weeks, from lack of audience. The Romanian comedy actors only appear in contest-shows with false fun and pre-recorded laughing. Quality movies cannot be watched earlier than 11 PM, when most of those who go to work the following day are already asleep and dreaming. Everything is sacrificed on the altar of serving the (average) spectator what he/she enjoys: vulgarity, showbiz affairs, accidents, holidays, spicy incidents, rows and scandals. The ‘redneck’ (this is how media producers call the average TV watcher) should receive what he is offered without commenting. And the offer is aplenty.
It is summer time, the season of holidays and having fun. Actually, this is the motto of the quasi-totality of televisions, willing to show us how happy we are at the seaside, mountain, abroad, or during weekend barbecue parties – the national sport of Romanians. A foreigner who ignores the reality might live under the impression that the whole nation is busy having a good time, spending nights at pubs and days on the beach. The truth, however, is far from this idyllic image. An INSCOP poll made public earlier this summer shows that 43.8 pc of Romanians will not go on holiday at all, from lack of cash. Add to this the pensioners that are undergoing various treatments, the children that go to summer camps, the grown-ups who prefer to camp in tents or caravans at the mountain or seaside, in order to save money, it results that less than one in three Romanians actually enjoys a real vacation, as advertised by the tourism industry. As a matter of fact, 32.1 pc told pollsters that they would certainly go on vacation. Watching the same TV news – long rows of cars moving at snail’s pace, overcrowded restaurants, piles of trash left behind by tourists – we reach the conclusion that a significant part of the so-called Romanian tourists eat what they brought from home, cook their own meals, or dine at cheap self-catering restaurants. It is not by accident that Constanta mayor Radu Mazare overtly expressed his preference for weekend tourism. During weekdays, paupers crowd on beaches, but spend little cash. At weekend, on the other hand, the seaside is stormed by well-off people, some of which even bring along their mistresses and spend hard cash for a good time, explains the mayor – a fan of Saturday fashion shows, with models and socialites.
In the summer time, the ‘redneck’ is even more avid of colour and spectacular. Even if he does not go to the seaside and spends the holiday watching TV – the most affordable medium and ‘cultural’ channel – he feels happy for the others which have a good time instead. TV programmes – as good or bad as they may be – are almost for free, as long as one can afford the small fee charged by cable TV operators. Newspapers are expensive and often relay the same information as the TV. Why bother reading? In its turn, the online variant is also tiring for the average citizen. Using a remote control is much simpler and less tiring – both physically and intellectually. When summer comes, the ‘redneck’ is even more avid of fluffy news and shows than usually, and televisions do not hesitate promptly catering to his needs. For many days, the Romanian TV public was ‘treated’ with the tragic epopee of the self-proclaimed ‘king of the Roma’ Florin Cioaba. Although – per se – his death is a family drama, televisions knew how to turn it into an event with a scent of showbiz and with happy end. The sons of Cioaba became kings – one of the Roma from all over Romania and the second the international king of the Roma! With politicians contributing to the spectacular nature of the broadcasts, the success was guaranteed and private TVs rushed to report each episode live from the scene. Drama was present, too, and the ‘show’ had a happy end, despite the reality.
TV watchers are up for a treat next weekend as well, when a showbiz event impatiently awaited by the whole country (!) is scheduled to take place, pushing viewership figures through the roof once again. Rumours already surfaced about a commercial television that negotiated the exclusive airing of this event, for a hefty sum: the wedding between TV starlet Bianca Dragusanu and the weather man (!) of a private television, Victor Slav. The civil wedding was delayed one week, precisely to give the respective TV – with exclusive rights – to properly prepare the live broadcast that will allow it to recover the money. Obviously, there will be plenty of commercials and companies will capitalise on the event to promote their various products. Everybody will be happy, including the ‘redneck’ who spends the summer at home watching TV, rejoicing for the local stars and forgetting that he did not have money to go on vacation.
This is usual in the summer time, let’s relax. Then autumn comes and televisions prepare well in advance to properly greet the political exhibitionism that can be easily anticipated. Now, this is fun!