Has the internet opened the door for the satire of television?

Satire has existed for as long as journalism, and it has always been quick to make it’s presence felt in any new media. Print has always been the obvious medium of choice for satirists due to its’s relatively low running cost but television has been a territory smaller groups have consistently struggled to reach.

TV hasn’t been spared from parody entirely – satirists like Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker have built careers on deconstructing and mocking the self-importance of TV reporters – but the medium is still nowhere near as widely accessible.

Even in the early years of the internet TV remained a medium that the satirists couldn’t touch. The lack of streaming technology and slow download speeds meant that any video content was still difficult for the audience to access. The Net had created a marketplace where satire publications could reach a global audience, but they were still bound to the medium of the written word.

A major change to this trend came in 2007 when The Onion, one of the best known satirical organisations launched The Onion News Network – a send up of the 24 hour TV news format. Since then the online video content for the site has expanded significantly to cover a range of TV news and current affairs styles such as sports news, discussion shows and ‘light news’ morning programs. Poking fun at the conventions and conceits of TV news the ONN videos have proven massively popular. In November 2007 the website claimed to receive over one million downloads per week making them among the most successful providers of made-for-online-video-content at the time.

Clearly, not every organisation is going to have the start-up capital to produce videos of such high quality or the man power to produce them as often. But the fact that after three years The Onion hasn’t stopped expanding its streamed video content goes to show that there is clearly an audience for this kind of material through the online video medium.

The hard news producers may have been the first to lay claim to online video but the satirists haven’t been far behind. And given the success that The Onion have seen so far, it seems that TV newscasters are going to be as ripe for parody at the hands of the public as their cousins in print have ever been.

By Alan O’Doherty

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