Thursday, June 04, 2009

No Matter How Far They Go, The Mainstream Media Will Never Campaign To Have The Chaser Taken Off The Air

By Darryl Mason

The Chaser's Julian Morrow made a promise on May 28, after the first episode of the new series of the mainstream media's reliable 'Public Outrage!' content provider, and comments generator, went to air :

"We care about complaint numbers far more than ratings. We were disappointed there were so few complaints this week, so we'll try to make it worse next week,'' Morrow said.

The Chaser kept its promise :

The complaints are pouring into the ABC, but more importantly, so are the comments to mainstream media blogs, your says and discussion boards. There must be 3000 comments already across a dozen or so Murdoch media blogs and news stories.

The Chaser made fun of dying children, or at least made fun of the way dying children are marketed by charities and top rating commercial television shows. Who the fuck doesn't have an opinion on that?

The Chaser's 'Make A Realistic Wish' Outrage! will soar to the top of Most Read stories across all the mainstream media online news sites, generating hundreds of thousands of extra page views, and by the time the Public Outrage! dies down, a few million in total page views that never would have existed had not The Chaser asked what's the point of helping dying children? "They're only going to die anyway."

A one minute skit from The Chaser produces a free video story, and copious online news stories mostly built out of comments made online by parents of dying children and furious others demanding the ABC cancel The Chaser by dinner time. This is not a costly piece of investigative journalism. It's all free. But it's exactly the kind of free Public Outrage! news story the mainstream media, tabloid and 'serious', are quickly becoming addicted to.

A few million extra page views, thanks to The Chaser, for online mainstream media new sites, translates into, at least, thousands of dollars worth of extra ad revenue.

The figures get bigger when you take it to the commercial television networks who will fill a few minutes of the evening news with this story, which will also soak up a solid five to eight minutes of the evening current affairs shows. Again, free Public Outrage! content.

It will be interesting to see who actually interviews dying children first to see what they think of The Chaser's demand they be more realistic about their dying wishes. Maybe A Current Affair can follow Julian Morrow around with a couple of cancer kids until he breaks down and weeps an apology.

If The Chaser can be relied upon to keep delivering totally free Public Outrage! stories every week for the rest of their last series, and no doubt they can (and if they don't, there will be enough material for some confected Public Outrage! anyway), mainstream media news sites, and blogs, can expect increased ad revenue because advertisers know The Chaser-related stories will pull the online eyeballs that they want to reach. It's not often a newspaper or news site can count on a popular story being served up to them for free, every Wednesday night.

Interestingly, if say the Daily Telegraph, an obvious online ad revenue beneficiary from The Chasers's totally free Public Outrage! stories, decided to go hard and stop at nothing until The Chaser was pulled off air, and got the rest of the series canned, they would be kissing goodbye to thousands of dollars worth of extra page view/ad revenue, plus all those stories that feed the endless demand for new semi-news related content.

(Note : I'm basing those very loose ad revenue estimates on what those kind of page view numbers would generate for the average independent blog carrying Google ads. I'd expect the money generated by The Chaser's free Public Outrage! stories to be substantially greater).

Clearly it would not be in the interest of any of the mainstream media online news sites, or the evening news or current affairs shows, to actually have The Chaser pulled off the air, no matter how far they go.

So in the time they have left, eight to ten weeks, in this final series, The Chaser can do anything they want, within legal restrictions. They could do some of the most dark and demented satire Australian TV viewers have ever seen. They could really break out of their own worn-out format and do something utterly unhinged.

The Chaser is clearly invaluable to all the Australian media. What they do generates public discussion and debate, filling newspaper pages, dreary day empty evening news spots, comment boards, and all those hours of talkback radio.

The first episode of the new series of The Chaser also provided hundreds of thousands of extra page views and free Public Outrage! content and online comment for the commercial TV networks and the Fairfax and Murodch media :

The public broadcaster received complaints about almost every segment of the satirical ABC show, which set its sights on making fun of the Cronulla Sharks group sex scandal.

The Chaser's War On Everything spokesman said complaint words used included: ``Disgusting, cruel, offensive, pathetic, revolting and disgraceful''.

It also showed the incident in which the boys flew a blimp into protected airspace above the Vatican, a cameo by TV talk show host Kerri-Anne Kennerley in a romantic tryst with Morrow.

Morrow also featured in a skit where a mannequin dressed as Governor General Quentin Bryce was thrown over a wall of the all-male Melbourne Club.

Some said a Footprints sketch was offensive to Christians, while a Wipeout Palestine segment and Billy Connolly sketch were also complained about.

Many more took to websites to express their disappointment with the show which has been off-air for 18 months.

John Surname speaks out in defence of The Chaser.

While I don't doubt that many, many people were seriously offended and upset by the 'Make A Realistic Wish Foundation' bit, you also have to wonder, in these remaining days of anonymous commenting, just how busy the PR units of rival networks are in creating or at least adding to the avalanche of comments demanding The Chaser be taken off the air, immediately. Consider this :

An average national audience of 1.54 million watched the show last night.

It smashed its commercial rivals Criminal Minds, The Mentalist and Law and Order: SVU.

It's not just that The Chaser completely dominates its prime time position, advertisers are reluctant to pay what they once did for 30 seconds in Law & Order because they know nearly all of their key target audience of 16 to 35 year olds are watching The Chaser.

The commercial networks, however, could go hard against The Chaser and air something that would pull away probably half of The Chaser's audience. The latest episode of The Daily Show for example. Or The Trailer Park Boys. But to air those shows in prime time, the commercial networks would have to become as subversive as The Chaser, and they won't be doing that anytime soon.

Now, of course, Prime Minister Rudd is getting in on the Public Outrage! about The Chaser.

If Rudd gets really outraged, maybe not so many people will notice the Defence Minister has also quit today.

UPDATE : Incredible, Channel Nine News ran with The Chaser story as its lead. The resignation of the defence minister ranked second in importance.