Why is there surprise or outrage over 2DayFM’s lie-detector stunt? In the commercially-challenged world of radio, TV, magazines and newspapers, it was content that ticked all the requisite boxes:

  • Highly controversial.
  • Generates vast publicity for the show and the station in other media.
  • Enhances the station’s reputation with advertisers for “edginess”.
  • Drives ratings for days.
  • Focuses intensive media attention on the station’s highly-paid personalities.

Just like newspapers which spend large amounts on give-aways (see Andrew Dodd’s piece on The Age in our top stories today), or inane tabloid TV shows, or gossip magazines that invent celebrity stories, or the Daily Telegraph home page, the overwhelming point of too much commercial media today is to generate ratings or circulation by methods which push the boundaries of reputation, ethics, taste and decency as far as possible within the constricts of the law and public disapproval.

Old mass media is a sunset industry. Advertisers and audiences are rapidly fragmenting and migrating in hundreds of different directions. Tackiness, senationalism and bad taste are increasingly the only resorts available to cling on to those migrating audiences.

That’s the sad story of modern media and, almost certainly, it will only get worse. Get used to it.