Monday, 20 January 2014

Frustrated rage about alcohol advertising.

I am thinking of making a template for the first paragraph of my blog, which I can just slot in every week.
This template would run something like this: "I was incensed this week when 'x' [member of the Abbott government] did 'y' [their latest offence to intelligent government]."
So this week it is once again about alcohol, and its deleterious effects on our society.
Namely, alcohol-fuelled violence, I live in NSW so my sources mainly list trouble in Sydney and the larger regional centres, but I have no doubt that all the states are the same.
This was precipitated by the tragic death of young Daniel Christie recently, who was 'coward punched' outside a late night venue in King's Cross Sydney.
He spent a week in hospital sinking rapidly and then his parents had to make the agonising decision to turn of his life support system.
I do not wish to make capital out of this tragic event, but want to raise the issue of our politician's hopelessly misguided response.
The Prime Minister incensed me to a degree where I could hardly forbear from punching the radio through which this comment came.
When asked about alcohol-fuelled violence the PM says, "Yes, it's time to do something about it...".
I listened with bated breath, and then he said, "We are going to increase law enforcement."
Goddammit all to hell this was a moronic response.
Law enforcement is not the answer to this problem, stopping alcohol advertising is.
Now those of you who have been watching this space will know I have been on about alcohol advertising, interminably it seems, and I would like to let the matter drop, but I can't ignore it when our supposed leader makes statements like this.
So, let's unpack things a bit.
Law enforcement, increased or otherwise is not the answer, even the coppers will tell you that.
The police already cannot contain the situation, once people are already drunk the coppers can only put people in the drunk tank and keep them off the streets till they sober up, even arresting them does no good on the night, as there are innumerable cases of people who reoffended after they were let out of the clink, drink driving is an example of this.
So the PM says we are going to go for increase law enforcement to solve the problem.
Does this mean we are going to employ more police?
Or are we going to make the police we already have work harder?
Either way it's no solution.
The police already struggle to get new recruits, and even if things change over night, and we suddenly get a new load of thousands of police, we would then have to roster the entire force on work Friday and Saturday night when the alcohol-fuelled violence problem peaks.
So then the Premier of Queensland weighed in and got it equally, unforgivably wrong.
Said Premier, Campbell Newman, proposed, like the  PM, tougher penalties, and again this couldn't be wronger.
Tougher penalties are retrogressive, they can only be instigated after the violence, when already a young man has been hit from behind and is losing his battle for life.
Then we come to the Premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell, who's proposals cover:

"Those proposals will cover areas like better regulations of licensing,"
"Secondly, they'll cover issues like policing in and around our entertainment precincts."
"It'll include penalties for those engaging in drug and alcohol-fuelled violence and it'll include measures to tackle the cultural change needed."

I was intrigued by the last sentence, "measures to tackle the cultural change needed."
And I wonder if this means doing anything about alcohol advertising on TV?
So I contacted Barry O'Farrell's office to ask, and (all together) 'look forward to being ignored'.
I think however, it is going to be a long and fruitless wait for something to be done about alcohol advertising, as this story in the SMH shows.
For those who aren't across it, Brainless Barry said that earlier closing of venues wouldn't have saved the life of young Daniel Christie.
The author of the State's largest study into alcohol related night crime, Peter Miller, called these comments 'unbelievably stupid', going on to explain; the expense of drinking late led people to stay home and pre-load, that is, drink cheap alcohol at home, and so when they finally emerged onto the streets they were already very drunk.
So all three politicians above has got it wrong, so why do I strongly advocate removing alcohol ads from TV?
Well, firstly the ads work.
Todd from the marvellous Gruen shows on the ABC.
Among the many fine programs on the ABC is the Gruen series of shows about advertising.
These shows explain to us how advertising works, most importantly, how it works on us.
Todd, one of the panellists, said one week, "Most people say, 'yeah, advertising works, but it doesn't work on me'".
I found this fascinating, as I've said it a lot, but since it came from Todd I gave it some credence.
Ads don't generally work on me though because I never watch any, or at least I never see any with the sound on, so I'm fairly immune.
However, even soundless ads work their insidious black magic as I discovered when watching the cricket.
It was the Sydney test in early January, the match ended on the third day, a Sunday, with an emphatic victory for Australia.
Now I haven't had a drink for a full year now, but as the game ended, I was overcome by an almost unquenchable desire for a cold beer.
I sat with it for a moment, and then realised that the ads had got through.
For almost three days now, I had watched the cricket, for seven hours a day, and though I had the sound off, and was enjoying the ABC radio call, the silent ads for alcohol, 100+ per day for three days, had finally worked.
NB: I didn't have a drink, and am still enjoying the health benefits of abstinence.
Additionally, my friend Antony reported that he had succumbed to the desire for a burger advertised by the fat with optional chicken company advertising on the cricket, and had pedalled down to the take away food outlet and had one.
So the ads work.
And of course, we all know that advertisers would not pay the astronomical sums they pay to advertise during prime shows, the cricket is one, if they weren't getting a return on their investment.
So during the cricket the alcohol companies were giving out this simple message, "We want you to start drinking at ten in the morning when the cricket is on, and keep drinking all day".
And thus I contend that alcohol advertising has to be banned from TV, or at least moved back to only after 8.30 at night.
Is it any wonder that there is alcohol fuelled violence on our streets when we are being urged to start drinking at ten in the morning?
So there you have it for another week, more ranting from  me, I'll stop when our erstwhile leaders show some damn sense.

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