Seventy three-year-old British actor Ian McShane has upset Game of Thrones fans by talking about his guest role in the upcoming sixth season of the world-conquering fantasy.

When their dismay was brought to his attention, McShane was unrepentant: "You say the slightest thing and the internet goes ape. I was accused of giving the plot away but I just think 'get a f*****g life.' It's only tits and dragons."

My only quibble with these three forthright propositions is that, notwithstanding a spectacular intervention in the season five finale, dragons don't actually feature all that prominently.

I enjoy GoT. I'll admit to having binge-watched eight episodes in one sitting which I wouldn't necessarily recommend. But, when all's said and done, it's just television.


Hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg might watch it because he wants to understand "what the world was based on before I got here" but those of us who don't drift through life in a haze of marijuana fumes understand it's entertainment, not history.

It's just television but we treat it like reality. "Spoiler alert" has become one of daily life's red flags, like "NSFW" [not safe for work] and "do not open emails from Nigeria promising to make you rich and enlarge your penis."

Does it matter? Leaving aside those who take life and themselves too seriously, most of us don't mind a little light relief with our hard news. But given the trend-line that suggests the media focus on shows like GoT is only going to intensify, there are a couple of issues worth considering.

Much of the coverage is essentially free advertising which further enriches people who are already richer than they need to be.

Thinking back to my mercifully brief career in public relations, I'm struck by the contrast between the media's eagerness to promote hit TV series and its suspicion of anything that smacked of free advertising for less glamorous commercial products.

Many a time the journalist I was trying to interest in a product or service or sponsorship explained their lack of interest in terms along the lines of "It's not our job to sell your client's product."

When the product is a TV show or movie or record and the ultimate beneficiaries are foreign multi-millionaires, as opposed to local businesses employing Kiwi men and women, the media is far less fastidious.

Its willingness to hype products made in Hollywood sometimes brings to mind the poet Humbert Wolfe's lines: "You cannot hope to bribe or twist/(thank God) the British journalist/But, seeing what the man will do/unbribed, there's no occasion to."

Again, you may ask "does it matter?" I suppose that depends on whether or not you regard the American entertainment industry's dominance of popular culture - sometimes characterised as "cultural imperialism" - as a healthy thing with no negative long-term implications for New Zealand culture and identity.

The convergence of social media and celebrity culture has given us the Kardashians, a phenomenon whose triviality is surpassed only by its pervasiveness. The brand needs a boost; Kim Kardashian posts a naked selfie because "like I have nothing to wear LOL"; various women question her calculated exhibitionism; she generates a faux controversy by complaining of "slut-shaming"; the media laps it up; the brand is enhanced. Come back Paris Hilton: all is forgiven.

Then there's Donald Trump, without whom no discussion on any subject whatsoever is complete. Acres of newsprint and hours of broadcast time have been devoted to analysing the whys and wherefores of Trump's apparently unstoppable march to the Republican presidential nomination but one thing most analysts agree on is that the media has enabled it.

Trump works on the principle that all publicity is good publicity. Every time he lobs a verbal grenade, he dominates the news cycle for 24 hours.

The talking heads on TV might deplore what he says and how he says it but their disapproval simply reinforces the perception of Trump as a straight-shooter and crusader against political correctness.

A recent study found that Trump has received US$2.8 billion ($4.2 billion) worth of free media exposure, more than double the combined total of his three main Republican rivals.

The rich and powerful are manipulating the media and the public in order to increase their wealth and power. Does that matter?