Ramūnas Čičelis wrote something interesting in his book "Trajectories: Television Critique"?

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I have a feeling you haven't heard of this book yet. I would not be surprised - criticism of Lithuanian television shows is not the most frequently discussed topic. And what to say that the circulation of this book is only 400 units...

But I want to interest you, to buy this book. Let me introduce the author, the book and a list of the theses I remember most.

Ramūnas Čičelis - He is a literary scholar at VMU, an independent journalist and photographer, and Trajectories is his fourth book. After reading this book, published in 2022, I was interested in learning more about Čičelis' work, and it seems that the author talks a lot about the information noise in Lithuanian media. Well, not only noise, but also the fatigue it causes and the need for information asceticism - a cleansing of information of little value.

Here I will take the liberty of criticising the author's work, even though I haven't even shown it to you yet. When I first picked up Trajectories, looked at the table of contents, flipped through it... I thought that the whole book was going to be one of those "all television is dung" books. I was wrong. Although the author very often uses the nonsensical, obtuse parts of TV programmes in the book (and sometimes too often, in my opinion), the "criticism" in the title does not mean that the whole book is only about evil. The author's work (not only in this book) also focuses on positive, useful media solutions. He also presents possible solutions.

For example, it may not seem very TV-related here, but as I heard at a book launch, the author proposes to live as if in a narrative work of art in order to avoid being trapped in a society of fractured, fragmented consciousness. According to the author, if we live in one piece, we can understand ourselves as a plot: with a clue, with the trials that the protagonist undergoes, with a reward and a good epilogue. "This way of thinking is frightening because it imposes a responsibility", said Cicchelli during the presentation. Taking responsibility for oneself - for one's future - is a good method of self-development. And, also, an important part of television. As I realised after reading Trajectories, a large part of the problems that arise in the television media is due to the fact that the producers of some programmes do not feel a sense of responsibility towards the viewers. The programme makers feel a responsibility to the image of the channel, to the advertisers, and the viewers... well, they will watch anything.

So what are the Trajectories about? About television in Lithuania since around 1990. There are mentions of earlier programmes, but almost all the focus is on the independent period. Neither the LRT national song and dance programme "Duokim garo" nor the LNK entertainment infoshow "KK2" passes the author's eye.

The author's writing is complex, his examples and ideas often extend over several pages, which makes it difficult to extract soundbites - this is not a thesis book, not a marketing book, not a political book. It is more of an exploratory essayistic reflection. That is why it is better for you to read the book than just to rely on summaries.

...But I will try to give what I think are the most striking parts of the book, the statements. This is not everything that Cicely talks about in the book, just what stuck in my mind! 🙂

  • (Un)nurturing TV. Should television educate the viewer? Or should it make the content as simple as possible? More than 20, 30 years ago, television was, according to Marshall McLuhan's theory, a 'hot' medium, where viewers asked questions during the viewing process, actively evaluated the information they received, and shared their experiences with other viewers. Now television has probably become a 'cold' medium, where we consume it in the background - we are doing something, and television, well, it doesn't need attention, it just bubbles away outside the attention. Or we just turn our heads off when we watch TV. It could be argued that the internet and LRT Media Centre is now a "hot" medium, where it is used actively, deliberately, by choice.
  • Knowledge in an age of "alternative facts". It is difficult, if not impossible, to be unconditionally impartial. Thus, in classical Western media, it is common to recognise what the premise of a media channel is, which opinion, which way of telling a story, the channel is more representative of. In Lithuania, we deliberately do not do this, although Lithuanian TV channels do - TV3 news can resemble an orchestrated play, where the news is presented slowly, then the terrible events are listed, and at the end there are beautiful images and a weather review; LNK news presents everything as a growing horror, with the horrible events following each other, until they culminate in a climax that can resemble a sermon on what happens when you lead a criminal life; LRT Panorama news is distinguished by the absence of thriller, the brief presentation of facts and the viewer's ability to judge them, which may even be boring for some viewers; and the humour and news programme Dviračio žynios (Women of the bicycle) is already breaking out of the confines of reality and presenting the day's news through humour and satire.
  • Advertising and TV. Advertising on Lithuanian television is distinguished by the fact that it does not raise the artistic, informative level of society. It could. Advertisers are guaranteed money for a TV channel, and the more advertising you add, the more airtime you can sell. Most, if not virtually all, advertising is targeted at the lowest needs in Maslow's pyramid - food, medicine, sex, entertainment and human contact (note the large number of telecoms advertisements) and only a very small proportion of advertisements provide something more - information about modern innovations, investment opportunities, cultural and social events. It seems that advertisements in Lithuania are created for the lowest caste population, while the needs of the business and noble castes are neglected. For several years, British television has run a campaign of 'Be more dog' advertisements, encouraging the viewer to live a more active, healthier life rather than buy or consume; the advertisements changed minds, not trapped them in buying. Is it realistic to see such an advertising campaign on Lithuanian television today?

The book also covers many other topics. Fifty Lithuanian television programmes and their presenters are covered. And if you are interested in marketing, media, or just like watching TV, I recommend reading this critique of television by Ramūnas Čičelis.

You can easily buy the book from Vaga online and their physical bookshops.

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