Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Catching Up With Change--Part 2

Part 2 of playing catch up with all going on in the media.  It's all about the media which means it's all about us.  We're the end users.  Are we getting any use?

Sometimes television does good.  It doesn't mean all will be happy.  A recent Glee episode included an extended scene dramatizing a shooter in the high school while students and faculty took responsible actions to stay safe.  It turns out in the program that there was no shooter though a gun was discharged on campus.

Those perhaps most qualified to comment on the appropriateness of the show, the people of Sandy Hook, contended that the episode was too soon after the massacre.  Others suggest that the episode keeps the issue front and center.  The show was written before Sandy Hook happened.  The terror was recreated well.  Was it too soon after the massacre or was Fox serving to dramatize the effects of such violence?  I am unqualified to have a conclusion.  Fox did include a vague warning at the beginning of the show that the episode involved school violence.  Glee dealt with a fear we all now share.  Since Columbine there have been 31+ massacres.  Was Glee too soon or too real? Or both?

The ratings for Glee jumped 20% for the episode. However, on April 18, Glee lost in the ratings to a rerun of The Big Bang Theory.  Perhaps the most shocking news is that the five combined networks (apparently there is a CW network that airs various programming) got a combined rating of 9.1.  This means that fewer than one out of ten viewers watched a broadcast network at that time.  This compares to a combined rating of 90 for three broadcast networks a few decades ago.

A recent study found that five million homes have become "zero TV homes."  These homes have no antenna, no cable, satellite or other television program provider.  That is up from two million such homes in 2007.  They watch everything they want to on their computers.  Some folks I spoke to have a large HDTV.  It is hooked up to their computers to watch whatever they want online.

Cable bills are too high.  There is so much available on the internet.  There are many reasons to go to zero-TV.  Perhaps if viewers didn't have to sit through 20 minutes of commercials per hour, they would be more patient?  Perhaps broadcasters (and cable) could air fewer commercials, charge more for each and make just as much money?  

If there were fewer commercials and shorter breaks, I would not be as prone to going to Weather Channel.  I will keep TV in my home for various reasons I have rationalized.  I love watching sports.  I love watching Walking Dead.  HBO does amazing documentaries and PBS has some great shows.  It just ain't worth $100+, as my wife reminds me once a month when the bill comes.

Broadcast TV may be just a memory anyway if Fox goes through with its threat.  And the FCC is aware of this threat and responded publicly.  More about this in part 3 of "What's Changing in the Media?"

Media Are/Is Changing--for good and bad...

It's changing.  Constantly.  Quickly.  Some change is good.  Some change is bad.  Some change is just, well….change.
Since I checked in last the media has run amok.  Joan Rivers' mouth ran amok.  AMC ratings ran amok.  The Bible ran amok.  Jon Stewart is running away.  And broadcast networks may be going away.

This may take more than one column to catch us all up.  

First let's take out the trash.  Which means a comment about Joan Rivers.  Her comments on Adele's weight may have been funny 30 years ago when Ms. Rivers was relevant.  Yes, there was a time she was relevant.  She did an excellent job subbing for Johnny Carson.  Somehow, subbing for Johnny has made her an expert on clothing and weight.  (The link here contains strong language, all directed at Joan Rivers.)

Joan is far from the only contributor to the problem of eating disorders.  Just as culpable are the stories of miraculous weight loss.  Snooki, whose sole contribution to society has yet to be determined, lost 42 pounds not too long ago. We know this because of a story about her miraculous weight loss.  

And by publicizing this story and all stories about actresses that gave birth, had a nanny raise their kid and lost a bunch of weight, the message is reinforced: Lose weight or women who had criminally negligent plastic surgery will criticize you.  Or far worse and more seriously, some women and men may see themselves as less worthy and develop an eating disorder.  

Another bad change:  Talk of the Nation (TOTN) on NPR is going away.  TOTN offered daily in depth discussions on a range of issues from the immediately relevant to the humorously trivial.  NPR is canceling the show this summer. Is canceling TOTN another episode of broadcasters giving in to our increasingly short attention span?  The network announced it was replacing the show with more magazine style news programming.  

The result of this cancellation and presumably the cancellation of Science Friday, is I will be less informed about a range of topics.  I may know about stuff, but the depth of that knowledge will be truncated.  Yes, I can research on my own.  But I loved the way NPR did the research for me and presented it fairly, professionally and with a hint of perspective.  I am sorry for our shorter attention spans.  I am sure I am guilty also.  Must we all suffer for it and have the trait reinforced by broadcasters?  

We will miss Neil Conan, host of TOTN and Ira Flatow, host of Science Friday.  I thank them for making me smarter and allowing me to enjoy the process.

So much to talk about.  A column ain't enough room.  Give me a few minutes and I will continue.  Not all the news is bad.  Just wait. Some of it is good and some of the news is truly neutral but still interesting...