Thursday. 13/2/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Tune in live

In the streaming era, it’s getting harder and harder to host a live television show that can grip an audience. Even awards ceremonies are feeling the pressure: this year’s Oscars was the least watched ever, with only 23.6 million viewers tuning in live, a strong dip compared with last year’s show. With so many options at their fingertips, are viewers growing bored of live pomp and ceremony on television?

It’s not just the Oscars, of course. Maintaining TV ratings has also caused headaches for the producers of the Grammys, the Emmys and the Golden Globes. Yet there’s certainly still a desire for live viewing experiences done right. Just look at the strong ratings for sports broadcasts such as the Super Bowl (this year’s incredible Shakira and Jennifer Lopez performance certainly helped) and the football World Cup. These suggest that people will happily watch a three-hour-plus show or sporting contest over several weeks provided that it stays fresh and entertaining. Some say that these live shows are too long; I say keep them long – and fun.

So what’s the secret? It helps to have entertaining hosts who are not afraid to poke fun at their own event (something the Oscars has failed at in recent years). We should also take some inspiration from the Eurovision Song Contest, which has maintained popularity even with hugely chased younger demographics, ensuring that it remains one of the most watched live shows in the world. Young audiences in particular enjoy the show’s more eccentric acts, so yes, extravagant sometimes is better. We all like streaming but there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned live show with that feeling that things can go wrong – or indeed very right – at any minute.

Trade / EU & Vietnam

Trading places

The European Parliament yesterday approved a landmark free-trade deal between the EU and Vietnam. Likely to come into force in July, the accord eliminates almost 99 per cent of tariffs between the two parties and is forecast to increase Vietnamese exports of goods and services to the EU by €15bn a year (and EU exports to Vietnam by €8.3bn a year) by 2035. But as one door to southeast Asia opens, another one closes. The European Commission is planning to withdraw trade preferences from Cambodia in response to recent government crackdowns on opposition and civil society groups, and the media. The pullback is meant to highlight Europe’s increased insistence that trading partnerships must be coupled with commitments to labour and social standards. But, as various NGOs have pointed out, Vietnam still routinely prosecutes human-rights defenders, journalists and lawyers. With the benefits of free trade under scrutiny, the EU needs to ensure that it gets this balance right if it is to maintain its credibility as a standard-setter for global trade.

Culture / Italy

Book smart

The past few years haven’t been easy for Italian bookshops: thousands of independent retailers’ stories have ended ignominiously. But the government has finally decided to weigh in to support the sector with monetary muscle. The so-called Book Law, which was unanimously approved by the Senate last week, comprises a yearly budget of more than €4m for initiatives promoting reading, including tax credits for booksellers and a cap of 5 per cent on potential discounts (to protect small shops from competition by big chains prone to price-slashing). It’s a long awaited but wise and learned move: other countries would do well to take a leaf out of Italy’s book.

Society / Australia

Sound of silence

When was the last time you sat on a park bench and listened to the hum of the city around you? Melbourne’s lord mayor says that the scarcity of such moments, free from the distractions of a smartphone, is causing an uptick in rudeness. In an editorial published yesterday in The Age, Sally Capp says that sliding standards of etiquette among city dwellers – discarded cigarette butts, chewing gum on footpaths and urinating in public among them – are symptomatic of a society that’s become too self-absorbed. We agree. Taking time out with your favourite music or podcast is a good way to relax (especially if you’re listening to Monocle 24) but we all share a responsibility to respect each other and the world around us. It’s great that Lord Mayor Capp thinks so too but, more generally, there’s room for private companies to take the lead in helping to police poor behaviour on their premises. Airlines and rail operators should actively discourage the use of tinny speakers on phones that distract fellow passengers and restaurant staff should feel empowered to tell the parents of the child with the noisy game to turn off the sound.

Arts / USA

Frieze frame

The second edition of Frieze Los Angeles returns for a week packed with exhibitions, talks and performances when it opens to the general public tomorrow. The London-based art fair first decamped to the US west coast last year, welcoming about 30,000 visitors – and it seems set for yet another successful installment. More than 70 international galleries will take to Hollywood’s Paramount Studios, including return participants David Zwirner, Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Blum & Poe and more. The studio backlot will play host to Frieze Projects featuring the work of 16 artists selected by curators Rita Gonzalez, head of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Pilar Tompkins Rivas, director of the Vincent Price Art Museum. With the 25th anniversary edition of the LA Art Show earlier this month, the establishment of a new tradition with Frieze makes the City of Angels a must-visit stop on the global arts calendar.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Rodial

Maria Hatzistefanis is founder and CEO of Rodial, the skincare brand she launched in 1999 with a small investment. While raising a family and writing two books, Maria has managed the company’s expansion into 35 countries. Maria started as a beauty writer for ‘Seventeen’ magazine in her native Athens before studying business at Columbia in New York. But after a short career in finance, she saw a niche for targeted skincare products and created Rodial.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tbilisi’s architectural revival

Rather than erase all evidence of Georgia’s Soviet past, the country’s architectural community is keen to preserve its history and give its once-foreboding buildings another – happier – lease of life.

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