February 04, 2004

Fixing Media Cultural Degradation

Petrified Truth has a short item on the whole Superbowl half time show controversy. He finds it odd that a radio rant against violating nudity standards in the middle of the day on the most watched TV show of the year is interrupted by a commercial for a male sexual aid.

Both problems can be solved with one innovation. The viewer needs to become the customer. Right now, believe it or not, you are not a customer when you watch a program. You pay no money, so you get no input. The federal government, who can pull a broadcasting license, is paid attention. Advertisers who actually send a media outlet money, are paid attention because they are customers.

In essence, anybody who cares about cultural standards should be against free TV. It creates a situation where morals are most closely influenced by those twin paragons of morality, politicians and large corporate interests. In the days when the current TV system was created, it was too expensive to extract micropayments from viewers. Even cable TV has very broad granularity compared to what it could have if modern information system techniques were applied to mass media revenue models today.

Advertisers still want to advertise though so I suggest that instead of paying for broadcasters to beam ads to our TV sets that we may or may not see, they pay us to actually watch them. It would be a win-win situation with advertisers being able to target much better while we would actually get to see ads for products that we actually care about and can enjoy entertainment that isn't distorted by a need to run ads in-line, within the program.

Broadcasters, for their part, would have a new set of customers. They would no longer have to please advertisers, they would just have to please viewers. This, no doubt, wouldn't change many programs cultural aspirations. One thing it would do, would allow people to create zones where raunch and cultural garbage are simply not tolerated because people will want their money back.

Instead of participating in boycotts to force advertisers to complain, people will gain the right to complain themselves and be treated as customers, not inconveniently sentient parts of the machinery to please the true customers.

For my own part, I wouldn't mind being able to run commercial free during most of my TV watching and every once in awhile flipping to 'the commercial channel' to fill up my account. I wouldn't even mind paying to fill up that account if I had no better use for my money. I suspect that people will turn against free TV as soon as they realize that free of payment is intimately linked to free of meaningful influence on broadcast content and free of respect due your moral standards.

Posted by TMLutas at February 4, 2004 09:42 AM