Gone to the DOGs 

1 July 2001 tbs.pm/1703

When it comes to discussing contemporary television presentation there is one subject virtually guaranteed to get everyone talking because it seems to do more to provoke opinion than any other does. That subject is the DOG – the digitally overlaid graphic, the permanent on-screen logo, the Bug. Call it what you will, the subject certainly raises controversy and even passion. Like most people with an interest in the subject I am not impartial – I am firmly against them.

Like many viewers with digital television I do sometimes browse the channels but as I do so I read the EPG (electronic programme guide) because I am as interested in what programme is on as I am in what channel I am watching. In this respect a DOG does not convey anything extra to me. Ever.

It is completely superfluous and annoying as much for that reason as any other. I don’t find a static, medium brightness, translucent DOG distracting unless it is covering detail I am drawn to in that area of the screen. And that happens, particularly with a widescreen programme where the DOG is not in the corner.

I perceive an age issue inasmuch as it appears, to a large extent, that this factor polarises the way people feel about the DOG argument and television standards generally.

Those of us who are of an age that we grew up with ‘clean’ television appear to value it more and perceive declining standards more acutely. We are also less willing to accept the trends as utterly inevitable and to accept ‘market forces’ as an excuse for them.

The broadcasters argue that we need a DOG so that we have the knowledge of which channel we are watching subtly nailed in to our brains.

The question is – why?

Is it so that we can correctly report what we watched to an audience researcher? If so then there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that it doesn’t work. Those who are easily confused about that sort of thing tend generally to stay confused. (“No, no, not EastEnders, that other one … you know … wossisname.”)

Having people report to audience researchers what they remember watching seems to me, in this day and age, to be an extraordinarily unreliable way of gathering the data when the means exists for it to be done electronically. If we can contribute real-time feedback to programmes such as Survivor or Big Brother, surely we could do that about all programmes.

Quantitative and qualitative audience research – in real time, from a huge sample. Why settle for anything less? It’s got to be better than stopping people in the street who’ll quickly make up any old tosh just to get away and get on with their daily duties.

So why else do we need a DOG?

So we don’t miss the next programme in a series through failing to know which channel the last one was on? Do me a favour! If you like a programme that much surely you’ll make a modest effort to work out where you saw it and when it will be on again. It only requires one button press. If not, and you are that much of a couch potato, will a DOG help you? No, probably not. But strategically placed promos possibly would.

So is it to encourage channel appreciation and loyalty?

The DOG fails again in my opinion. Good programmes shown at the right time will do more to encourage that.

Finally I would assert that more casual viewers pick up on which channel they’re watching as a result of distinctive break bumpers than through a static DOG.

In short, I have not heard a single argument in favour of DOGs that I have not considered to be totally spurious. Its jobs, whatever they are perceived to be, can be done, and are done, better by other means.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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2 responses to this article

Poyda 10 July 2014 at 10:12 am

You want to see what our TV stations in Australia are doing. Not only are they putting their station logo on screen 24/7 but also big adverts across the bottom of the screen advertising their up coming shows, which stay on the screen the entire time and for weeks at time. Unfortunately our government de-regulated all TV companies long ago, so now they think they can do what they like, and unfortunately there seems little anyone in this country can do to protest. There is no online complaint form for any station, and telephoning them, so I’ve read is pointless.

Joanne Gray 24 October 2015 at 4:59 pm

In the good old days of my teenage years and basic (but vastly superior) 4 channel tv, all I needed to know what I was watching and who was responsible for broadcasting it to my screen, I did something that today’s youth may find odd. I REFERRED TO A LISTINGS MAGAZINE.

Nowadays, the on screen guide suffices for the surfeit of channels that are spewed through our digi boxes. If I find something worth watching, I am attracted to it more by the programme rather than which nameless, faceless corporate outlet is transmitting it.

Sadly, more channels equals less choice and quality, so more often than not, I find myself using my televsion to listen to the radio. At least listening to digital radio that way means that you don’t get that irritating popping “underwater” quality of sound that one is tortured with listening to a digital radio set whenever one breathes in or blinks, thus distorting the signal.

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