I recently heard Hollywood director/writer Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid and Nancy) speak at a local film festival about the struggle independent filmmakers have of getting their films to the public. Mostly due to the big media conglomerates, Sony, Viacom, Time Warner and the like who pretty much control what we see on TV, in theaters and on DVD. And greasing the skids of these oligarchies are the astronomical profits these companies net from advertising.
I grew up with commercials on broadcast TV. They weren’t that bad. OK, well maybe having doctors cooing about how “smooth” Lucky Strike cigarettes were was a bit much; but the commercials usually were over in a couple of minutes. Besides, we all knew that commercials were the price we paid for "free" television. It certainly seemed like a bargain at the time.
But Cox pointed out how the television “hour” has been steadily eroding, almost a minute per year. Today an hour of TV programming runs 42 minutes. That means almost a third of an hour long TV show consists of commercials. Most boob-tube Americans haven’t noticed – but I have. And it’s causing me to abandon television.
In the mean time the network executives are wondering why viewership is falling. Of course they are, these companies are paying millions to white-haired bone-heads who can barely figure out how to attach to their e-mail. Revenues are falling. The fix? We need more advertising revenue. Dumb asses.
Even Katie Couric is likely soon to get her pink slip. Seems that elusive “younger audience” the stodgy execs were trying to attract don’t watch network TV news, preferring instead to get their news from the Internet or Comedy Channel’s Jon Stewart.
In actuality, advertising volume has made TV become unwatchable. We now tape the shows we want to watch, playing them back when we do our morning exercises. I can watch two half-hour shows now while jogging with one thumb on the “Fast Forward” button.
I’ve stopped going to movie theaters now also. Why do I want to pay $8.00 to see Coke and Toyota commercials before the feature? If the theaters are getting all this advertising revenue, why don’t they pay ME to sit and watch this crap?
Even DVD’s have commercials now… with the “Menu” option conveniently suppressed so you can’t skip ‘em. The only thing that doesn’t have advertising on it today is toilet paper… and I have heard that it was seriously considered.
The joke ultimately will be on the media moguls and advertising wonks – Americans are losing ground, the middle class is shrinking. The people staring at TV’s are spending more of their hard-earned cash on housing, utilities, gasoline… corporate America is leeching the living blood out of their own consumers, if not outright just laying them off. People are increasingly unable to pony up the "disposable" income to afford the crap being pushed... provided they can even find the product within the deluge of advertising that assails our brains from all directions.
I’ll have more to say about this important issue… but first, a word from our sponsors.