Proper Gander: Channel Hopping The Shopping Channels

IF YOU find an advert particularly irksome, at least it’s over in a few seconds before you can return to your cosy ITV drama. There’s no such relief if you venture on to one of the many shopping channels cluttering up your digibox, where life is one long advert after another. Here, each stretched-out infomercial is presented by a chirpy wannabe Channel 5 continuity announcer. The presenters will babble on for half an hour about the virtues of a mystic peacock quartz sterling silver ring with 3D conical facets, or how a baked brow tones set with a double-ended brow brush will transform your eyebrows.

They will go into more detail than you ever wanted about the cleverly-designed drainage holes at the bottom of a plastic plant pot, or how 82c is the optimum temperature for cleaning a carpet. It takes either some skill  or some medication to keep up the bland bonhomie, even if the enthusiastic descriptions end up  meaningless. Most of the products are ‘amazing’; others are ‘collectors’ quality’ or ‘professional grade’,  apparently.

On Bid TV, every sentence the presenters say ends with an exclamation mark, while over on QVC they talk in block capitals. Weirdly, the infomercials are broken up with ‘commercial breaks’ which only have adverts for the channel itself.

At least the shopping channels are upfront about being nothing more than intermediaries between your bank account and another dose of retail therapy. Within a few minutes of tuning in you’ll be wondering how you  ever coped without a faux fur colour changing cushion with a seven LED colour cycle. Channels like Gems  TV and Rocks & Co try to muster up the ‘ooh, I’ve got a bargain’ feeling by starting out with an over-inflated price for their latest bit of bling.

Then, helped with a countdown and heartbeat sound effect, the price drops – often by thousands of pounds – to whatever they were going to charge everyone anyway. Plus P&P. Plus the cost of the phone call to order it. What you can get from the shopping channels, without spending anything, is an example of how vacuous the market system can be. Hurry while stocks last!

Mike Foster

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