Kids for Sale

Despite not having looked at that paragon of ‘quality programming‘ RTE (Ireland’s state broadcaster)at all recently, over the last few days the realisation has seeped in that the lowlight of the television year is to be broadcasted tonight.

A little bit of background for readers outside of Ireland, who have the blessed existence of not being aware of Ireland’s answer to Alan Partridge, blueshirt elitist Ryan Tubridy. This miserable string of piss, and rival to President Dump in the how-to-look-terrible-in-a-suit championship, hosts a prime time talk show every Friday night, which serves as little more than a conservative government mouthpiece. The host’s appalling treatment of Anti-Austerity Alliance TD* Paul Murphy is testament to this. Further to this, the show is also cringingily painful to watch. A quick summation is this cleverly put together piece comparing Tubridy’s show to that of Graham Norton. Full disclosure, I’m no fan of Scientologist Will Smith, but the contrast is striking. One show is, maybe not everybody’s cup of tea, but full of energy and guests that people are interested in. The other, broadcast on the same night, features an ethnic minority guest dancing for the audiences ‘entertainment’. The Jim Crow overtones not withstanding, the poor guy made a total balls of it.

One of these shows is produced by TV licence payers in the UK, and the other by those in Ireland. Looks as if we drew the short straw on that one.

But why bring it up this week? Well, instead of the usual bilge that is trotted out on that programme every week, tonight has an ‘extra-special’ show. For over 40 years, in the lead-up to the season of crass commercialism, one week of this show changes its format to a two-and-a-half-hour advertisement aimed at selling crap to kids. So, bad enough that the state broadcaster wants to have it both ways by having frequent ads during its programming schedule as well as charging a licence fee, it now uses that revenue to produce a 150-minute ad in the guise of a show. I have to admire their moxy I suppose. This ad, which plays on people’s emotions by using cute kids to promote products, is the most watched TV ‘programme’ in Ireland every year. So not only are the toys made by children in sweatshops, they are promoted by them at the public’s expense.

And it works. Though I never worked in a toy shop, I spent many years doing so in a bookshop. Every year, some publishers will slip some books to the show to be promoted, and our shop would be inundated with customers looking for the one book in particular. Often supply wouldn’t keep up with demand, and incredulous barbarians (who had rarely if ever been in a bookshop before) would storm in during the last couple of days before presents are exchanged and be apoplectic that the item in question was sold out and wouldn’t be reprinted until the New Year. Suggesting they browse the tens of thousands of other books didn’t go very far. They had to have the one they saw advertised. Well, at least the kids in question wanted to read. They might turn out better than their parents did.

As for the kids on the show; I’m sure it’s very exciting for them to appear on television. And a proud moment for the Little Miss Sunshine parents too. A bit sad that this is the extent of some people’s ambition – to appear on television. And in an extended commercial no less. Not having their five minutes of fame after actually achieving something, but simply taking part in a marketing exercise.

Having one’s kids appearing in ads can have severely negative consequences. Remember the couple who were aghast that their, and their infant son’s, image was used in a poster campaign by the Vote No side in Ireland marriage equality referendum in 2015? They had given away their image to be used as a stock photo in exchange for free prints. |So they essentially sold images of their kid to be used by any bidder. Why would anyone do that to their kids?

Keep kids out of ads. They are too young to know any better. And if you are watching the show tonight, remember what you are watching. Not a show, but an extended commercial, hosted by a condescending, manipulative, arrogant, elitist. Enjoy.


*TD – Teachta Dála – Irish for Member of Parliament.

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