Laurie Taylor column

October 18, 2002

"The soundbite mentality... renders any intellectualisation around an issue an impossibility" - Brenda Gourley, vice-chancellor of The Open University , THES, October 11 .

Professor Lapping, sorry to bother you during your Pilates exercises but there's a woman on the line from the BBC. Shall I put her through?

Give me a second to balance the phone, I'm on my knees. That's better. Hello. Lapping here.

Ah, Professor Lapping. Charlotte Savage from BBC Poppleton. I'm a researcher on our late-night discussion show, Give It To Me Straight .

A most stimulating programme. What can I do for you?

We were interested in recording your views on the dumbing down of television in the light of Channel 4's decision to axe Brookside and the increased viewing figures for channel Five. Do you have any views on the subject?

I certainly do.

Excellent. I'm recording now. "Professor Lapping, as a media studies expert, would you agree that the recent developments on channels 4 and Five are evidence of dumbing down?"

I think we have to be careful with that weasel phrase "dumbing down". Many people would welcome the fact that we've moved away from the Leavisite notion of culture as the preserve of an elite. Many of us would also wish to question the notion that popularity per se is indicative of a decline in cultural standards. However...

That's absolutely fascinating, Professor Lapping. But it is a little long for our package. Could we try again? Only this time perhaps you could come to the point rather more quickly. Right. "Professor Lapping, as a media studies expert, do you agree that the recent developments on channels 4 and Five are evidence of dumbing down in television?"

On the whole, no.

Perfect. You've obviously done this sort of thing before. One last thing. How should I describe your present position?

Kneeling, Charlotte. Just kneeling.

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