Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Flashback 4/23/2002: FCC and the NOT Free Market

Since I wrote this nearly 5 years ago, media consolidation has continued apace while the choices of what to watch on TV and the range/scope of views has constricted considerably. My point continues to be made. News has largely turned into "infotainment" with facts synergistically melded with opinion and marketing to attract a demographic audience.

There are increasingly bombastic and shocking reality programs and talking heads to tap into a rage complex that lies not far beneath our individual veneers of calmness and stability. This is especially true of the white male 20 - 40 yr old demographic who lead lives of precious little excitement and whose responsibilities are not as romantically charged as in days of old. The shovel and crane have been replaced with the keyboard and the telephone. It is no wonder that men feel emasculated and pine for (the fjords) something more macho and confrontational. It is also no wonder that the difficulties they do face can be blamed on some other factor that lies outside themselves (race, gender, political correctness, etc.) Hence the market for shows like TNA Impact and the support shown for Don Imus after trying to build himself up at the expense of the national champion runners-up.

Thus we are left with a general failure to inform or even entertain in the sense that we should also be edified and educated (the 3 Es). There are, in fact, only so many reruns of Scrubs I can watch before just turning off the TV.

As cable and satellite take over for RF signals, the ability of independent television to break in to the market will decrease further thanks to the FCC shirking on its job of overseeing the VHF and UHF spectrum in a way that allows diverse ownership and viewpoints.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002, 8:30 pm
Justice to the left of you,
Justice to the right,
Speak when you are spoken to,
but don't pretend you're right.
--Yes, 90125

Who is allowed to broadcast on what frequency and when? Who owns the land where the cable for TV, phones, and computers run? Who gets access to these things? How about satellite frequencies and times? The FCC, currently under the thumb of Michael Powell sets the rules (with occasional help/interference from Congress).

The FCC wants to clear the way for large media companies to buy all of the television rights for a given region. One part of me says, "Dang straight. Let the market sort it self out." Another part says, "Hey, what about local autonomy? What about ensuring diversity of programming?"

The problem is that the government is STILL CONTROLLING the frequencies and municipal pipelines for signal and cable. If we were truly in a free market, there would be no controlling who could broadcast what or on which channel. Your neighbor Bob could have a 24 hour Elvis channel and the church down the street could preach to the masses. Anyone with a transmitter could broadcast (just like we currently have with printed materials).

Unfortunately, the advertisers would play heck trying to reach anyone and would eventually give up. Keep in mind that it would be a FREE MARKET open to anyone with spirit to use the medium. Herein lies the problem. What you are seeing today is not a free market. It is cooperation between government and large media conglomerates. Plain and simple. If it were free, you could go to Radio Shack and buy a transmitter and make your own TV. I don't think anyone wants to see the garbage I would put out.

Therefore, we need the rules. We need the FCC. We need some sanity in how the frequencies and cable access are granted. Unfortunately for the larger companies, we also need to simulate the free market to the degree that we should not allow a mighty few to control everything we see and hear.

It comes down to this. You either run it like the best bureaucracy you can and protect the "little guy" or you open it ALL the way up and run it like free enterprise. You can't have it both ways...

...or innovation will grind to a halt.


ladybug said...

Two words - Clear Channel.

Supposedly, all their media outlets are "Clear" (meaning safe for "family" [i.e. conservative Xian] listening).

Mostly it's just so boring, repetitive and advertisement laden, I don't even listen to the radio anymore. The Xian music stations are the ones that have the least commercials, interestingly enough.

The only remedy I've found is to find as many outlets of info as possible; in print(periodicals as well as newspapers), independant radio, online (esp. foreign news services), and discussion w/folks of all politcal persuasions.

Dean Wormer said...

I think Eric Idle summed up much of what you posted in a song...

Don Snabulus said...

Yes sir. I love that song. In fact, here it is. (not safe for work)

Anonymous said...

I think the next revolution of TV media is all ready here, its called Google Video or You-tube.

All though you have to have cable access to handle the bandwidth, it stands to reason that you could conceivably set up a television network over the Internet. In fact, many web sites now have this feature. I know of two of my favorite propehcy web sites that have entire half hour programs that you can watch on line. This is just one of the ways new media are breaking through the network conglomerates, by completely bypassing them.

Still, for a while, the major news and television media will be in control, for at most, five years. By then, HDTV will be widely available over the Internet, and today, HDTV's are all ready capable of being fed from a computer video card.

It won't take a great leap in technology to go from watching TV on your computer, to watching your TV, which IS the computer.

I see desktops and even laptops taking second place as the primary appliance for thought to thought transference of information.

Until the media revolution fully unfolds, we still have our blogs, which is why sometimes I feel like an ameture journalist. I can't find a news media that fits me completely, so I formed my own news media, and so did you. We broadcast to our friends, and a lot of other people too.

The blog revolution has majorly impacted politics. Many people like us have opinions and ideas, and just don't have the resources for developping our own television studio, not that I would if I could, but I might be able to do that some day.

Swinebread said...


The Moody Minstrel said...

Begin the day with a friendly voice,
A companion (sadly) unobtrusive...

Pa've's right. That's why we have the internet, and blogs in particular. You can spew what you like, and, if other people are interested, they can click the link and enjoy!

Don Snabulus said...

I agree that it is great to have this sort of "citizen's medium." I think the corporate media are annoyed by having a million watchdogs out there (and I hope it pains them mightily).

However, the internet is "pull" technology. A given blog, videosite, or website can rot out there unread indefinitely if nobody chooses to visit. You need to use search engines, word of mouth, networking with other blogs, and advertising to get people to visit you.

Why advertisers like television is that it is a "push" technology where it is on by default in many homes and it is more a question of which channel people are watching than whether they are watching. The other advantage of TV is that it is passive, meaning that it can be on while you are doing something else without needing attention to keep the content coming.

If YouTube and Google would form channels (like Rhapsody and Live365 have done with music) which stream video constantly to a particular interest, then they could not only insert advertising, but they could allow TV connected computers to supercede the telecoms in terms of available choices.

My boss has a Mac Mini hooked to his TV so he can compute from his couch. If there was streaming video, he could truly expand his choices.

(I should mention that I have already achieved the TV computer concept with OS/2 in the late 90s with a TV card so I could watch TV on my OS/2 desktop. Sadly, the world of YouTube was not ready for me at that point.)