Saturday, May 22, 2010

 

ACCIDENTS: HISTORY, GEOGRAPHY AND TV REALITY

In the forty-eight contiguous United States, there is only one place where one has to go south to get to Canada: Detroit, Michigan.

Wither Detroit - Once the fourth largest city of the United-States, it now barely reaches the top 12. When music producer, Berry Gordy (now aged 80), moved Motown Records to Los Angeles in 1972; he took along its soul. Lest I digress: White North America's love affair with Motown Music is a direct result of the legendary Music Director at CKLW Radio in Windsor, Rosalie Tromblay, who programmed the tunes on the station.

It is in fact much more than the City of Windsor and the residents of southwestern Ontario who share a cultural bond of sorts with Detroit. Back in the seventies, a consortium of Canadian cable companies, called CanCom, started picking-up the signals of Detroit's major network affiliate television stations for re-broadcast across Canada. Now called Shaw Satellite Services, the company is the major supplier of U.S. television signals across Canada. Close to two generations later, Canadian television audiences in every province view and share in the trials, tribulations, corruption, murders - In short the ups and downs, warts included, of daily life in the auto capital of the world.

And...there has been plenty to see: Just recently when police burst into a home in search of a murder suspect; an officer accidentally shot and killed a 7-year-old child. Her death is now raising serious questions of ethics and morality about reality television programs. A crew from the reality series: "The First 48" which airs on A&E, last week was tagging along and filming when police raided the home where Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed. Her death shines a critical spotlight on the growing number of reality programs that focus on police activity. Some critics claim police behave differently when cameras are watching.

Authors and experts on violence and murder say quite possibly officers become more aggressive and confrontational in the presence of television cameras. One observation is clear: Cities, including Memphis, Tennessee and Dallas, Texas no longer allow filming because it created a perception that the cities..."were overrun with crime". - A perception that Detroit has battled for decades.

Quoted in a related article by the Associated Press; the author of: "The Peep Diaries - How We're Learning To Love Watching Ourselves And Our Neighbors (sic)"; Hal Niedzviecki, claims that having a reality camera crew along on a police raid contributes to a culture that reduces everything to mere entertainment..."Somebody's accidental death, somebody's drug problem, somebody wins the lottery - it's all equally entertaining."

History, geography, the economy haven't always been kind to life in Detroit. Reality television it seems may not be kinder in death.

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