Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 19 November 2009

The death of actor Edward Woodward brings sadness to those of us who remember his starring role in Callan. It was one of my favourite programmes when I was young. It got me to thinking about the television (and radio) programmes that help define our lives. I vividly remember my dad listening to "Sing something simple" on Sunday evenings in the milking parlour while I was helping him; the Generation Game and Morecombe and Wise which we always watched as a family along with the Forsyth Saga and many others.
Today's children will no doubt take fond memories of X factor and Strictly Come Dancing into their later years. There is something powerful about these very popular programmes. It is a good thing when families watch their favourites together, it is often the only time they sit around and talk with each other. It is also surely a positive thing for the country, the sense that most of us are doing the same thing at the same time. This gives us a common talking point and helps create national cohesion.
It is also quite funny to hear men say things like "I don't really watch it, but the kids have it on," or "the wife likes it" and then go on to describe in great detail how they hate John and Edward or secretly admire one of the dancers on Strictly. Today I am coming out – in our household we record them both and watch them on Sunday afternoons. There now I've said it.
Cultural cohesion is an important thing. We must celebrate diversity but also find common ground on which we stand. The Internet, video games and i-pods all take us into our own little worlds and promote individualistic pursuits. These great TV programmes (16.4 million people watched X-Factor on Sunday) bring us together and help us bond with each other. Just as a real community needs a meeting place or two for social interaction – a village hall or a church – so the country needs virtual meeting places where people from all ages and backgrounds can meet. Everybody at work on a Monday morning or at the bus stop or over coffee at home can comment on Ola's dress or Daniel's tantrums.
Needless to say the makers of these programmes did not set out to underpin national cohesion. Simon Cowell is hardly some Churchillian figure. But it is an unintended consequence and a very welcome one.

posted by Gary @ 15:53