保罗·克里瓦切克 (Paul Kriwaczek)
Part I 第一篇
The Nature of Television Documentary 电视纪录片的本性
Chapter 1 Introduction 第一章
Haven’t I seen you on TV? 我在电视上见过你吗？
Television, in all its forms, is a dominant feature of today’s world culture. From Baltimore to Buenos Aires to Beijing, from Malmo to Makhachkala to Mahabalipuram, televison is the in the home, in the office, in the factory, in the hospital, in the post office, in the hairdressser, in the bar-room. Everywhere where people are, there is television. It comes by transmission from terrestrial antennae, by cable, by satellite, by closed circuit wiring.
TV is the primary communications medium of our age. It is our entertainer, our informer, our educator, our transmitter of culture, our codifier of ideology. It sets the agenda for political debate, manipulates our attitudes to ourselves and others, suggests shared images, stereotypes and paradigms. TV programmes put in front of us role models powerful enough to alter the way we behave. Real police carry out real actions in the style of their representation on the small-screen; politicians take up catch phrases, gestures and mannerisms ascribed to them by television satires. We know how undertakers, soldiers, bricklayers, authors, airline pilots, rock stars, factory workers are supposed to behave because we — and they — have seen it on television.
Television is our favoured way of presenting ourselves to the world. Most youngsters would prefer to tell the wider community about their school in a co-operative video rather than a written essay. Most company marketing managers judge the publicity value of a promotional film well above that of a printed brochure. Most political pressure groups or charitable foundations know that the persuasive power of a single television appearance is worth hundreds of leaflets.
This preference results from a number of television’s particular qualities. One is the illusion of transparent truth that film and video seem to offer. Another is the very familiarity and ubiquity of the medium. TV is such a part of everyday experience that its codes and conventions, its complications and craftsmanship go largely unnoticed. The process of making a television programme seems to the casual observer to need little more than common sense and an eye for a picture.
One important factor which gives television its special status is the fact that until now access to it by ordinary people has been severely restricted. In the capitalist as well as the former communist world, in the developing countries as among the new industrial tiger economies of the Far East, television has been under the exclusive control of a cultural, political, social, commercial or artistic elite — at face value, a wide enough spectrum of people, but an elite nonetheless. The selection criteria for admission to that elite differ from country to country and society to society, but wherever on looks, broadcast television programmes have been made by a privileged few, and those in control of broadcasting their works have been an oligarchy also. This might not be so important in fiction film-making, but in the field of documentary it has meant only the chosen few making films about the unchosen many. It has not been possible for ordinary people to present their own image of themselves; they were only ever to be seen through the others’ eyes.
In consequence, television everywhere has come to fulfil an important validating role. To appear on television is as if to have one’s existence officially acknowledged. Being allowed onto the box is a kind of formal recognition of a person or a group’s presence in society. Back in the 1970s Parosi, though not a documentary series but a drama serial set among the South Asian community of the British Midlands, and which included passages of dialogue in Hindi and Urdu, had at the time — according to a UN report — a notable effect on the self-image and self-confidence of British people of Asian origin. Even now if you ever appear on television people who normally meet you every day of your life feel driven to approach you with an impressed and almost awestruck: ‘Didn’t I see you on TV yesterday?’
It is tempting to compare the status of television production with that of writing in the European Middle Ages before the development of printing. In fact there is a considerable difference. Writing may have been a skill restricted to the few and controlled, in mediaeval Europe at any rate, by the Church, but the products of the literate labour of monks and clerks were, unlike the products of the television producer, only accessible to the tiny minority who could read them. It was that minority who held the power in their society. In our form of democracy, public opinion has power, and television has from quite early on been available to, indeed directed towards, the majority of the population either in their own homes or their places of relaxation and entertainment.
Thus until now television has had all the features of a typical twentieth century mass medium, with costs which are quite unbalanced between producer and consumer. Much like other cultural products of our mass age, pop music for example, television has everywhere been centrally tightly controlled by large corporations or government bureaucracies. It has been expensive to produce and distribute, At the same time it has been relatively easy to acquire and cheap to consume. Power, for good or ill, was largely in the hands of the producers. The consumer’s choice was to answer a multuiple choice question, to select between a small number of predetermined responses: to buy this record, that one or neither, to watch this channel, that one or switch off the television altogether.
Today, as we look towards the beginning of a new century, this imbalance has already begun to change. The unstoppable development of technology is starting to render the previous dispensation quite out of date.