Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Wanna watch the Booker? Think again.

Its always been a rare guilty pleasure for me, watching the Booker Prize, the one unadulterated bit of TV-lit all year, you sit down with a glass of red, throwing olives and pringles at the tv screen. With multichannel TV, the old "rush" to meet the TV deadline shouldn't be a problem for the BBC, just bung it on BBC4. So what's going on tonight?

"The announcement of the winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will air on the BBC 10 O'Clock News. This will be followed by coverage on BBC 2 Newsnight, BBC News 24 and BBC Radio 4 as well as interviews that will air around the world. BBC Radio 4's Today Programme has been airing pieces on the shortlisted authors throughout this week."

What went wrong? What happened to the live show? And god forbid there's some real news tonight. The TV ceremony WAS the Booker in my mind. Otherwise what's the point of the rest of the country getting all worked up? As it stands its just a black tie do for the publishing industry. I seem to remember that everything from the Orange to the Turner gets a tv showing these days, leaning on the Booker example. So, I don't know who decided to pull it - but it's a shame. Remember, BBC, you're still angling for an increase on your licence fee...

But if I was a betting man, I'd not have a bet on the Booker this year, the best book will win, I guess, but whether it grabs the attention of the public is another matter. And that's got to be bad news for the retailers. Tower Records, a "long tail" retailer of American legend, is no more, and if it's gone, with its knowledgeable staff and wide-ranging back catalogue, what hope for HMV etc? The Oasis greatest hits apart, there's not many "big" records due this Christmas, and back catalogue exploitation has probably now reached its ultimate: a 2CD "Deluxe Edition" of Abba's "Arrival" album. The bottom of this barrel looks thoroughly scraped. Reading Simon Reynolds enthusiastic history of post-punk, Rip it Up and Start Again, he makes the point that in the late 70s, early 80s, albums were deleted so quickly by the majors, that you always had to look forward. Indie singles could sell 20-30000 copies, creating a genuine alternative to the mainstream. The massive availability of music via the internet doesn't really mean that much - nobody's pushing the envelope anymore, or if they are, its only their acolytes who are buying. And where music has gone, you'd be a fool, or a shareholder in HMV, not to think that books and DVDs will follow. Is YouTube, bought today by Google, the MTV? Or could it morph into a paid-content Chain-with-no-name? It's certainly an alternative distribution medium, as is print-on-demand for small presses. Just as the record industry of the late 70s required massive budgets, advances and sales to make money, the current film and publishing industries are wedded to the same. If this Tower is Babel, then can you hear the lapping of the waters all around?

CODA: Kiran Desai is the winner.


Elizabeth Baines said...

The Booker: could it be that the TV companies pulled out because there were so few famous authors on the shortlist?

Ms Baroque said...

The Booker all round seems to have a lot less hype than in the famous Rushdie-&-Amis-dominated days of the 80s. It all seemed somehow so urgent then... well, I expect it's still urgent now.

And I like the throwing olives part; you have suffered a loss on that account alone.