It was released in 1976 but the weighty themes about the state of society and the role of the media tackled by the film Network remain as pertinent now as they were 33 years ago. If not moreso.
The film is about past-his-prime newsreader Howard Beale (Peter Finch, pictured right) who, in the face of sliding ratings and the inexorable shift towards news as entertainment rather than serious reporting, is sacked.
This pushes the already troubled Beale over the edge and, after first telling viewers he will shoot himself live on camera, in subsequent broadcasts he delivers an increasingly angry and impassioned series of monologues decrying the state of society.
In particular, he rails against the opportunistic role of TV news providers in the decline and the apathy of the viewing public who are content to sit back and digest trivial twaddle while corporate greed wrecks the economy and profiteering bosses put workers on the scrapheap, fuelling the economic breakdown and the crime that is already running rampant.
The irony, of course, is that the more vociferous and extreme his protests become, the higher the viewing figures and so he ends up being exploited by the very executives he loathes, increasing the network’s profits and boosting the executives’ careers while they destroy all he holds dear.
Here is his best-known speech from the film, as he appeals to the viewers not to sit passively back and accept the drivel they are being fed and indignities being heaped upon them from all directions. When you watch it, remember this was made 33 years ago. The more things change….