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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Case of the Century (well, so far)

Watching the news at the moment, it is apparent to me that a circus is in town.

Let me start by explaining something. For some reason, many countries measure their status, maturity or whatever, to America. Our lust for celebrity now echoes that of the US (though I'm unsure if Mark Ellis and the entire cast of Shortland street make a great celeb pool). Our love of cars of status or our "Reality Shows" that depict the desperate conflict within that most representative of demographics - the female fashion model, is straight out of America.

Like the O.J Simpson case, a case burned into the american psyche, New Zealand now has the three ringed circus that is - "The David Bain Retrial"! (queue lightning effect offscreen and ominous "da-da-da-DA" music)

The similarities are extraordinary. The Bain murders shocked the nation when discovered. In the same way that all americans were glued to their TV sets watching that 4x4 cruising down the freeway shadowed buy one third of the LAPD vehicles that were available at the time ( you just can't buy that sorta publicity, said the LAPD communication consultants). Ok, so instead of being pursued down a road by enough 4 wheeled, steel hardware to make a magnet horny, David Bain was carried out in a wheelchair to a waiting ambulance. Slightly more sedate, I'll grant you but sensational never-the-less.

In the same way as the OJ trial, we now have up to the second reporting with both major TV networks stationing permanent reporters on site. These two journalists bring us "up to the moment" news and any breaking reports liable to blow the breath from us by virtue of their blistering insights. They are aided in this by in the courtroom blogs, the in court cameras and flashbacks to old footage ad nauseum.

With complete respect to the two journalists, and only to purport my analogy, these two are the clowns. The people whom we get closest to, who have the most interaction with Joe Public (or Joelene Public, whichever you prefer) . Their tricks are the live crosses from the courtroom steps, the desperate but futile efforts to speak to the incoming defense team. Lets face it, they know that the defense team is not going say a word, they need to make it a little more sensational by following them yelling "David, David, how do you feel David?. It gives the broadcast a little more Hollywood zest.

Then back to the studio, to the high wire acts called the news anchors. The people that we look up to. The best of the best, the anchors are the stars of the show. The glitz, the glamour..... ahhh the lights, those pinnacles of human evolution coordinate a complex act of trickery moving between the live crosses, the expert commentators and the "eyewitnesses" who years ago, once ran past the Every St address and, whom can attest to the mood of the time and subsequent shock.

Then, in the middle we have the ringleaders.

If we were to follow the analogy we would imagine seedy, unshaven little men in jodhpurs, ill fitting red riding jackets equipped with long coach whips and megaphones. Like spiders in the middle of a web, they carefully pace and orchestrate the action to ensure a show of note. These people are there to ensure value for money.

And thats what the case of the century (well so far) is about. Money.

David Bain's innocence or guilt is almost incidental at the moment. The networks and the other news organisations have fodder for the screens and nothing is going to come between them and selling at least 5 weeks of the most complete Bain trial coverage. Coverage that they will use to sell their brand. That would make the Directors of Programming the ringleaders. Except now, the clothes are are a bit cleaner, more fitting and the amounts of money at stake is a great deal larger than a circus.

We are being marketed to. In a place like the US where even the news reporters are celebrities, look for the news reporters rather than the proceedings to be the focal point. Mr Bains case is going to take a long time to conclude and the bits that are seriously in the public interest and are of note would probably fill up a full 5 minutes of screentime - including the verdict!

So in the meantime, enjoy. Roll up, roll up. The media circus is in town.

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