The TV news is on at dinner time so people don’t have to chew food and follow a soap plot at the same time. It has to stay simple and lightweight. There are a scant few minutes allotted to each story, so there is no time for exploration of a topic.
This week there was a report about the number of people ticketed in New Zealand for not wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle. The number is up, apparently, and the ‘reporter’ was highly indignant about it. Here’s how it went: Cue a series of shots of bare-headed adults weaving through traffic on bikes, take a soundbite from the mother of a boy whose bike related head injury ruined his life and sent her on a crusade to make helmets compulsory, spit out the figures from ACC regarding the inordinate cost to the taxpayer of bike related accidents. Segue into the sweeping recommendations to be made by the coroner, investigating the number of cycling related deaths over the last few years, and say it like cyclists are going to get what’s coming to them, damn it. Cut to an ad break.
Here’s how it could have gone: Well, the good news is that the number of people ticketed for not wearing helmets is on the increase! That means more people are cycling to get from A to B. Look at these people riding through the traffic! None of them are those annoying lycra wearing sporty types! These people are using their bikes for transport, which means less cars and buses on the road. And, the exercise they get by doing this will save the country millions in health expenditure! OK, they would be better off wearing helmets - that’s a no-brainer - but it turns out over 80% of bike accidents are caused by vehicle drivers. So cut these people some slack folks, bike riding is a simple solution to our traffic woes and its good for everybody - car drivers included! Please look out for them!
Why the news programmer chose the first approach is anybody’s guess.
Gandhi said: first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. Well, it might have been Gandhi. Might have been Groucho Marx. Doesn’t matter, its true. I think we are at the fighting stage.