Sunday, 23 March 2014

Two modest proposals based on the "Freeview" advertisements ("The best things in life are free ....")

One of my favourite TV advertisements for a long time is the one for "Freeview", the umbrella group for all the competing free-to-air television networks in Australia.  (For those outside Australia, we have five free-to-air television networks, each with three or four individual free-to-air channels, including an all-news channel, an all-children's channel, and an indigenous-oriented channel.) 

The ad features a band playing a  high-energy, swing-jazz rendition of the 1920s song "The best things in life are free", while TV personalities from the various networks "ham it up", some pretending to be part of the band, others pretending to be listening to the band in a jazz venue.  Some tiny snippets of programmes from the sixteen or so free-to-air channels are also shown.  (For those outside Australia, or for Australians who don't watch much TV, here's a link to the advertisement.)

Obviously, the commercial message of this advertisement is this: 

"Why would you want to put out all the money to get pay-tv when there is so much variety already available on free-to-air TV?"  (And, yes, here in Australia, pay-tv is still a bit more expensive for the average person, comparatively, than it is in many other countries.)

Personally, what I like about this ad is that performers who normally are each others' competitors are shown together, enjoying themselves in each others' company. 

I'd like to see this idea put into practice in two other ways, and would put these forward as "modest proposals", in one case to our Australian politicians, and in another case to the national leaders of our faith communities.

One "modest proposal" is for our Australian politicians to appear in such an advertisement.  Politicians across the political spectrum, and at the federal, state, and local levels, could be shown in the act of being human beings (no publicity stunts involving politicians wearing high-visibility vests, funny hats, or "budgie smugglers", please!) and in relating to each other in a normal, human way, rather than engaging in the usual political theatrics.  As in the "Freeview" ad, some appropriate bit of upbeat music is played.

The message conveyed could be:  

"Yes, Australians have a proud tradition of being very cynical toward politicians.  Yes, our politicians frequently get it wrong.  Yes, they are flawed human beings.  Nevertheless, they are HUMAN, with normal human aspirations.  And, besides, if you're given the choice between (on the one hand) being governed by a group of politicians whom you have a hand in choosing every few years and (on the other hand) being ruled by a cabal of generals, who in their right mind would choose the generals?

The other "modest proposal" involves showing worshippers of a variety of faith approaches engaged in worship.  The worshippers are from a variety of faith orientations.  Along with a wide variety of expressions of Christianity, we'd see examples of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc., at worship.   Upbeat music (preferably not of an overtly religious nature) is played.

The ad could also include scenes of scenes of people from faith communities serving people in need, and standing alongside the oppressed and marginalised.  I'm of two minds about giving too much emphasis to "heroic" figures of faith (historic or contemporary, Australian or international).  Too much emphasis on the Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, and Mary MacKillops (or their contemporary equivalents) may give the impression that the life of faith is only for "special" people of faith, and that it is isn't really relevant to the average person watching the ad.

The message conveyed here could be:   

"Yes Australians have a proud tradition of being very cynical about "organised religion".  Yes, our faith communities frequently get it wrong, in terms of:  
  • our prejudices toward each other,
  • being far too socially conservative too much of the time,
  • being far less inclusive than God wants us to be,
  • allowing a relatively small group of abusive people, in some circumstances, to prey on innocent people without being held to account,
  • and other factors.
Nevertheless, communities where people gather to celebrate a shared spirituality are still contexts where people experience grace and wholeness.  They are still communities of people who are motivated by their faith to serve others."

Perhaps this interesting advertisement for free-to-air TV can be used as a way of assisting Australians to overcome some of our cynicism and our prejudices in regard to politicians and in regard to "organised religion".

1 comment:

  1. Bob your proposal would make for an ideal world, one I'd love to witness! I am sick of the brainwashing happening expecially on facebook with both politics and to a lesser extent the one sided religious views often targeting the actions of a particular faith.It's proper gander to some extent. I welcome people wishing to share their faith happiness or what their particular political party is achieving, but am totally over the constant put downs, cursing and blaming. I've one friend who continually has a cheap shot at Christianity posting insulting images and wording, affecting me for the rest of the day.


Constructive comments, from a diversity of viewpoints, are always welcome. I reserve the right to choose which comments will be printed. I'm happy to post opinions differing from mine. Courtesy, an ecumenical attitude, and a willingness to give your name always help. A sense of humour is a definite "plus", as well.