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Tuesday 23 April 2019

Declan Lynch: TV is the moral maze from which we always escape

  • Home of the Year (RTE1)
  • The Masters (Sky Sports)
Tiger Woods lines up a putt on the 13th green during the second round of the Masters at Augusta. Photo: Kevin C. Cox
Tiger Woods lines up a putt on the 13th green during the second round of the Masters at Augusta. Photo: Kevin C. Cox
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

In the course of a week's viewing we can be presented with programmes which raise various moral dilemmas, or at least a few questions which test our general sense of right and wrong.

And while they might be quite diverse in their substance and their seriousness, they all have one thing in common - they will rarely make us stop looking at the programmes in question, indeed we can find it remarkably easy to ignore the parts that we may find offensive.

Even those strange people who actually complain to some official body about something they find offensive, must have been watching the programme, perhaps in the hope that they would be offended.

Though, of course, anything can turn into an ethical issue these days - for example, there would be some who would agonise over whether architects should be barred from entering their own homes in the contest for 'Home of the Year'.

Personally, I believe that it should be explicitly stated that no professional architects need apply for this series, and I would be against interior designers too - I would bar anyone really, who makes a living in the area of home improvements.

There is terrible injustice in this world, but we can help to ameliorate some of it anyway, by observing the basic TV principle that amateurs should not be competing with professionals. I mean, we're hardly going to crack the great issues of our time, if we can't work out the rights and wrongs of 'Home of the Year'.

But it gets more tricky when you're looking at sport, which some of us will never stop watching, regardless of its moral failings. We watch football even as we know that many illustrious clubs are owned by some very bad people indeed, who are using the beauty of the game to advance their bad causes.

Golf brings us deep into the moral maze too. Last weekend we caught some of the National Women's Amateur Championship at Augusta, which was controversial in itself, as it reminded us this was the first time for women to be playing a competitive tournament at the fabled old track, where they weren't even permitted full membership until 2012.

So we were absorbing the implications of this, trying to figure out if we should be lambasting the good ol' boys at Augusta for their past transgressions, or embracing this change, and then the commentator said the word "inclusive".

He welcomed the fact that Augusta was now being inclusive, in relation to women. What he did not mention, is that Augusta is still not very inclusive in relation to black people, or at least there are hardly any of them to be seen there, which suggests that they don't feel included in these great experiments.

Indeed to use the word "inclusive" at all about Augusta is peculiar, since it has spent most of its history thinking mainly about who it can exclude, on a variety of grounds - no, even if you're a rich white man you can't just cruise up Magnolia Lane and play a swift 18 holes for a few bucks, especially if you're wearing the wrong kind of trousers.

Yet I have been watching the Masters avidly for most of my life, and I will be watching it tonight, putting these objections to one side, to immerse myself in the murky waters of the Royal and Ancient game.

And there's a big one coming down the pike, with the Eurovision. Because it is to be held in Israel this year, there have been many objections - though I can't help noting that the Eurovision has also been held in Russia, and Turkey, and Azerbaijan, countries that are not exactly being run by decent upstanding proponents of pluralism and freedom of expression, and nobody shouted stop.

But we will be hearing much of this in the weeks to come. And ultimately it will come down to the individual viewer, and the question of whether you can take a principled position on the Middle East while also watching the entire Eurovision.

What do you think?

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