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6 March 1997 Edition

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Television: Big Brother is watching

Republicans don't need television programmes to alert us to conspiracy theories. When Big Brother is bugging your phone, checking your mail and greeting you by name in the street, being paranoid is a healthy option. But the march of modern technology is making it easier and easier for the state to keep tabs on all of us.

In the Sci Files (7.30pm, BBC2, Monday, 3 March), reporter Vanessa Collingridge gave us an update on the situation in Britain - and we are not far behind. In many British cities and towns closed circuit surveillance cameras operated by the police can now follow people's every move. ``We lead the world in closed circuit television,'' British Home Secretary Michael Howard has boasted. ``The innocent have nothing to hide.'' George Orwell or Aldous Huxley couldn't have put it plainer. In Dublin, Temple Bar is similarly well equipped with closed circuit cameras but the rest of the city centre is also well, if discreetly, covered.

Private companies have also come up with advanced computer packages which allow the merging of huge numbers of databases, containing information about everybody. As one contributor pointed out, everything we do these days, whether it's a phone call, a trip to the bank, paying a bill by credit card, even drawing out a library book with a computerised ticket - all of that information is recorded somewhere. And despite data protection laws, the increasing pace of technology means it is now possible to collate and make sense of that vast amount of information on our lives which is out there. Gone are the days when you could just pull the curtains. The privacy we all cherish is set to become a luxury rather than the norm.

I must admit to being a fan of Jeremy Clarkson, of the BBC's Top Gear motoring programme. He has a passion for cars and a vocabulary to describe that passion which even excites the likes of me, who have yet to experience being in command of a four-wheeled vehicle that isn't made of plastic and that you don't have to push or pedal. His own show, Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld (8pm, BBC2, Monday, 3 March) brought him this week to Vietnam, a country where, according to the man himself, Marx now mixes it with Murdoch. He examined a staggering array of ancient vehicles, many left behind by various colonials, whether of US or French extraction, which are still running today, a testament to a Vietnamese resourcefulness which even McGyver would envy. One US Chevrolet had been specially adopted to accommodate 20 people instead of its intended four and with scaffolding in place of the original suspension. The international motor industry is starting to tap into the huge potential of Vietnam but for now at least, cars are small beer. In the countryside oxen are still the norm while in the cities it seems that everybody drives a moped.

Back On Track (RTE 1, 9.30pm, Monday, 3 March) was supposed to be an in-depth analysis of Sonia O'Sullivan's unfortunate Atlanta experiences from Bill O'Herlihy, who travelled to Australia to talk with our finest athlete. But despite the distance travelled, the resulting programme was bland and offered no new insights. Instead we had almost an hour of musical numbers over shots of Sonia training combined with interviews in the Australian sun which added nothing to what we already knew about the disappointment in Atlanta. Arguments and controversies which were overhyped at the time are of even less interest with the benefit of hindsight but O'Herlihy dragged us through them all anyway, including the `change of strip in the tunnel' debacle which he did so much himself to hype up during the Olympics. We all wish Sonia well in Athens for the World Championships but spare us RTE's excuse for decent investigative sport reporting, please.

Absolute turkey of the week was the much-hyped Asteroid mini-series (9.10pm, UTV, Saturday, 1 March) from the States. Two huge asteroids are on a collision course with Earth, threatening a new Ice Age and it's up to Michael Blehn and Annabella Sciorra to stop them. But the suspension of disbelief necessary to buy into the story is just too much. The acting is dreadful, the plot predictable and dull as ditchwater, the suspense laughable and even the special effects are sub-standard. This Saturday sees the concluding episode but I couldn't care less whether the world survives or is blasted into smithereens.


This is a good weekend for sports fans. Thankfully, the blood sport that is Five Nations rugby is over for the Irish, who have gone off to lick their wounds until next January. But this Friday, 7 March, at 7.35pm, coverage of the World Indoor Athletics Championships from Paris begins on Network Two. This is followed at 8.35pm by Grand Prix Formula One 1997 - A Preview, with Peter Collins and David Kennedy assessing this year's prospects for Eddie Irvine in his Ferrari and for Eddie Jordan's new car and eager young drivers, Ralf Schumacher and Giancalo Fisichella. At 11.35pm also on Network Two, boxing fans can catch up with the finals of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association's National Senior Championship Finals from the Stadium in Dublin.

Only the genuine motor racing fans will stay up till 2.30am (Sunday, 9 March) to watch the Australian Grand Prix live from Melbourne and this night bird will be one of them. The full race will be repeated for early risers at 8am on Sunday.

Watch out also for Eurosong `97 on Sunday (9 March, RTE 1, 9.20pm), introduced by Pat Kenny from the Waterford Institute of Technology. I've only heard one song from the eight that have been shortlisted and I have to say it was rubbish, but then that's the Eurovision for you. No-one ever watches this stuff for the songs anyway. Let's get on to the main event in May, skip the songs altogether and just devote the whole shebang to the voting. And remember that key phrase: ``Wyominee, null points!''


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