Thursday, July 11, 2013

No books programme on the TV. Am I bothered?

Sky Arts are dropping their books programme. As you'd expect, the book trade isn't happy. Book PRs wonder where they're going to get their new publications reviewed. Novelists, who all look like librarians, wonder how they're going to get famous. Tweeters tweet.

I used to watch Read All About It when Melvyn Bragg fronted it. That was 1977 and books, often quite serious ones, were suddenly being marketed in the way that albums had been and their authors were being encouraged to style themselves like rock stars. It must have been quite rigorous. I was just listening to an old exchange between Martin Amis and John Pilger on the programme. It achieved Newsnight-levels of testiness.

I haven't watched a book programme in years. I've never read more books, never bought more books and probably never read more reviews of books, but I don't have the patience to watch a bunch of authors being interviewed or some critics comparing notes. What information or opinion value such programmes may once have had I can now obtain somewhere else.

(In fact I no longer watch the kind of TV that features people discussing things at all. I've realised in the last couple of weeks how little TV I watch when I've been introduced to a couple of people who were, to judge from other people's reactions, quite famous. It's not entirely true to say I had no idea who they were but an idea was all I had. I'd never seen them.)

We'll probably get by without a books programme on the TV. We managed without Barry Norman's film programme. It's apparently still on but presented by somebody else. 


  1. Anonymous5:29 pm

    "In fact I no longer watch the kind of TV that features people discussing things at all."

    Is that a slightly dangerous comment from one whose opinion is often correctly sought for, and entertainingly broadcast on, programmes like The Janice Long Review Show?

    For the record, as if anyone's recording my opinion, I kept meaning to watch Sky Art's book show but never got round to it. I was busy watching and reading other things. Such is DH's point.

  2. Was 'Read All About It' the one that had 'Paperback Writer' as the theme music? It also had rather groovy animated titles. The name of the show doesn't sound familiar though.

  3. Judging by this post and others on your blog you've fallen out of love with TV.

    Rightly so, as TV has sought to deal with dwindling audiences they've chased stupider and stupider ones.

    I find it less disappointing to limit TV to the odd download friends recommend.

  4. I was running the Picador list when Ian McEwan's First Love Last Rites was discussed on Read All About It. We sold thousands of copies the next day. That was an impressive example of tv book programmes actually having an impact. Having never watched Sky's book programme, I'm not in a position to miss it. But you're right - there hasn't been a book programme with the rigor (or the level of guest) since. There was also The Book Programme, with Robert Robinson, which used to have guests like Cyril Connolly and Malcolm Muggeridge having proper critic-type discussions.

  5. The printed word is the best medium for book review and discussion. Readers read, books don't need tv promotion.