What it says on the tin
Last night Channel 7 aired the “program” Mc Donald’s gets grilled, in which six “average Australians” get tasked with “investigating” the “truth” behind the fast-food chain and the food they serve.
First of all, I found it hard to categorise the program. This is probably because it slid further down the slippery slope that goes from programming to advertising than any program before it. While I was naively expecting a Today Tonight style program, complete with chasing of staff and turning up at the CEO’s doorstep (they do it so well every night, so why not kick someone not lying down for a change?), Mc Donald’s gets grilled had more in common with Masterchef; complete with repetitive interviews and awkwardly inserted reaction shots. The highlight was when the Mc Donald’s CEO was introduced like a Tetsuya or (insert celebrity chef) to jaw dropping participants.
I know this show was initiated and financed entirely by Mc Donald’s, but only because I read it in the weekend papers. The production company was supposedly skeptical to the project, but accepted, provided they were given full control. The program was presented as a search for the truth about the fast food giant, but no there was no mention of the involvement of the giant itself.
You can’t blame Mc Donald’s for trying. They knew perceptions of the brand could only improve – and to be fair, many misperceptions do exist – and half an hour of prime time coverage blessed by the ethos of channel 7 (yeah, yeah, you know what I mean) to address these is priceless.
But how independent was the production company? How can they not be influenced and intimidated by Mc Donald’s, the same peeps who paid for the production itself, and Channel 7, a major beneficiary from Mc Donald’s considerable advertising budget (did Mc Donald’s pay for this air time?)? The fact that Mc Donald’s decided which suppliers to visit may suggest an answer to this. Being ‘in full control’ is a relative term, and this allowed the production company to take some ethical short-cuts in order to make it on to Mc Donald’s’ Christmas card list whith their claims of honorable intentions still intact. Not that they’d ever admit to this of course…
The program itself was just painfully boring. The participants found a bit more sugar than expected here, a bit less fat than expected there, and were mainly impressed by the produce and quality control of the suppliers. Nothing of potential interest or controversy was pursued. The negatives were forgivable and ultimately served only to add credibility to the positives. And the biggest positive was simply the absence of anything that could confirm our worst expectations. I don’t question the findings – fat contents and additives etc – independent experts confirmed these. But I don’t think they dug deep enough. Surely it is possible to find some more dirt on Mc Donald’s if you put your mind to it. Would mice in the lettuce or cockroaches in the kitchen have made it to the show or would it have ended its life on the cutting room floor? We will never know. The show implied that every stone has now finally been turned and that the last word on the matter thus has been said. It is a cynical, but efficient, way of silencing one’s critics.
To be fair, Mc Donald’s is a victim of many rumors and campaigns and has become a scapegoat for many of the problems in our modern society. So good on them for breaking new ground, and dispel some of these myths. Not so good on Channel 7 and the production company for being uncritical messengers though.