An Open Letter to ITV

Earlier today we ran a story about The Alan Titchmarsh Show and their handling of a debate about the impact of video games on children. I have since been moved to write an open letter of complaint to ITV in order to air my grievances. The text of that letter is below. I urge you all to communicate your own feelings on the piece to ITV too, their contact details for Viewer Services can be found by following this link.

To Whom It May Concern,

I am the editor of one of Europe’s largest and most popular independent video game websites. I was recently shown a clip from an episode of Alan Titchmarsh’s daytime talk show in which Alan chaired a discussion about the impact of video game violence on the nation’s children. The panel of guests invited to discuss the issue included Tim Ingham, a man with many years experience in the industry. The other two guests were, somewhat predictably, less knowledgeable.

Julie Peasgood has built a career as an occasional short-run soap actress and an expert on sex. She is often found using thinly-veiled sexual innuendo on The Alan Titchmarsh Show where Julie and the host often skirt the boundaries of public decency, flirting with sexual assault whilst prodding winking and salivating over a procession of semi-naked models. This is the first time I’ve ever heard her talk about the UK’s largest grossing entertainment medium.

Kelvin MacKenzie was the third panel member, a man whose journalistic history reads like a guide on how to be the most ill-advised and offensive right wing bigot to ever approve a headline. This is the same Kelvin MacKenzie that famously ran the incredibly distasteful “Gotcha” headline after three hundred and twenty-three Argentine seamen lost their lives during the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano during the Falklands Conflict. And yet the producers of the show saw no irony in asking him to speak about the casual depictions of war in recent entertainment media.

The debate, in as much as it could ever be called such, quickly descended into a soap box for the outdated, misinformed and ignorant views of the two panellists who shared little to no knowledge on the subject. Alan’s chairmanship was at best comical and at worst sinister. At times he seemed to encourage, without any shred of presented evidence, the repeated erroneous claims made by Peasgood and MacKenzie while completely ignoring the irrefutable facts that Ingham was attempting to have heard.

The sudden and vitriolic attack made by Julie Peasgood was particularly repulsive. She seemed to be under the impression that if she shouted the unsubstantiated claims over Tim Ingham’s polite protestations then they would magically become true. Sadly, as so often before, Julie Peasgood was not only completely misguided but resolutely blinkered in her assertion that she held the moral high ground. She would, to any informed viewer (of which I’m sure Alan still has one or two), have presented herself as profoundly ignorant.

To give Kelvin MacKenzie his due, he had at least tried to research his subject for a couple of minutes before he went in front of camera. Unfortunately, he then went on to contradict himself, trip over the terminology and make bizarre and unsubstantiated claims about a seventeen year old murder case.

MacKenzie was found citing that one of James Bulger’s killers (Jon Venables) had been “corrupted” by video games. This throwaway misuse of a murdered child’s memory for personal point-scoring was slightly bizarre given that the so-called corruption of Jon Venables by video games has never been referenced anywhere before. Especially so given that, at that time in the debate, a comparison was being drawn to movies which had in fact been cited numerous times as inspiration for the acts committed against James Bulger.

It is my opinion that this kind of badly researched, badly chaired and ignorantly handled debate has no place on television or on any public forum. I believe that the segment on Alan’s show only served to further a problem which is far easier to solve than the producers would have their audience believe. The solution is simple: if you are a parent, stop allowing your children to play with video games that are age-rated as inappropriate for them.

The unfortunate fact that the debate’s chairman was unaware of the rating system’s existence (as well as being seemingly unaware of the possibility that a movie might be watched outside of a cinema) meant that on the occasions when Tim Ingham tried to bring notice of that preventative barrier to children getting their hands on inappropriate video games he was allowed to be shouted down by those with a vastly inferior knowledge of the subject.

It is the contempt with which The Alan Titchmarsh Show treated video games which promotes the culture of shame which still exists to a certain degree among fans of that form of entertainment. The popular mainstream caricature of the reclusive gamer with poor social skills and self-esteem issues is only perpetuated (and potentially realised) due to this mishandling of the medium.

I would remind the producers that they work within a form of entertainment which is in rapid decline and this kind of defensive, propagandist heckling of a media which is sharply growing in popularity only serves to make them appear outdated, poorly-informed and ultimately, covetous of that success. It is unseemly to the point of embarrassment.

Kind Regards,

Peter Chapman

Editor –