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"And on the day the words flimsy excuse were redefined, we stood in awe, and watched."
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October 25 2004

In The Voting Booth, Remember 'Angel'. A SyFy Portal columnist says Angel was a direct victim of media consolidation and that The WB cancelled it partly to please AOL.

Wow, that's a bit of a stretch.
Though he made a valid point about the influx of reality programing, connecting it to the voting booth was a bit much.
Well, I knew the cancellation had been about money, but I thought we had just been dealing with Jordan Levin and a less-than smart network decision. I never connected it to the influence of Time Warner/ AOL.
The idea of corporations behind televison programming, is honestly making me feel a little ill.
To put it in AtS terms, we really are in a fight against the Senior Partners.
PMMJ I can only agree. Heresy though this may be, some things in the world do not revolve around BtVS, AtS, Firefly or anthing else Whedon-touched. Admittedly not many things worthwhile but even so. A bridge too far methinks!
Well, the columnist does have a point. During his four year tenure George W. Bushes administration with the FCC chairman Michael Powell has made several leanencies(sp?) to media requlations and monopoly legislation to enable, and if elected again, probably enable further, this sort of media consolidation.

If I were an american, I'd start to get worried about who controls the major news networks, radio stations and newspapers in my country, all with their own political and financial interests (call me paranoid, but I like to have more than one or two sources of information)
Some conspiracy theorists (I'm married to one such person) can tell you all the ties between the current administration and something called "Clear Channel" - go look it up. So it may not be all that far fetched. A stretch? sure, but I do see some validity to this train of thought. Did these things lead directly to the cancellation of Angel, don't know about that. I definitely can see how this could lead to certain trends in TV Land though.

[ edited by T. on 2004-10-25 16:55 ]
Nice little piece of muckraking. Keep it coming.
Hmmm. Since both the largest media merger (AOL with TimeWarner) and the second largest media merger (CBS and Viacom) were approved by the previous administration (FCC Chairman William Kennard, appointed by Clinton), this is a trend that isn't linked to any one political party. This article looks more like partisan campaigning than serious comment to me.
The issue of media consolidation isn't a question of partisanship although this particular article may be an example of that. The consolidation is real, however, and the effects are not good for a democracy that relies on an informed citizenry. When you have news and information filtered out through very few sources where are the choices? Competition is everything. Numerous media watchers and scholars - from both the right and left - have decried the consolidation. It's bad for everybody.
Since Buffy, and Angel, was made by Fox (News Corp) for The WB (already Time Warner) and both of those are, and were at the time, Uber-Corporations of the highest order it does seem a stretch to suggest that "Large Conglomorates=Death to Genre Shows"...

And take it back a few more years, before deregulation was even thought of, there were three networks in the US period. It was the beginning of the whole slippery slope that allowed new networks like The WB etc to even exist.

And while control of news media by a few large corporations is a concern it is also true that never before in the history of the world have so many people had access to so much completly uncensored news from so many sources than they do today, via the internet. Anyone from the US want a second opinion about events in Iraq? Check out the BBC. Or news providers in France, Germany or in the middle east itself.
Add to that the ease with which anyone with an opinion can create a webste or post to newsgroups free from any control or censorship.
Very true, zz9, that the internet provides a key way for people to get, and express, different information and opinions. Actually Joss alluded to this in yesterday's conference call. I agree completetly. But still, many people in the U.S. get their main information from tv and radio. Those are the people who are being the most poorly served by consolidation.
There are many people in the U.S. who don't have internet or cable for that matter. Yes my dad is still in the stone age.

He gets most of his news from newspapers.

[ edited by eddy on 2004-10-25 19:48 ]
Oh puh-lease. The entertaintainment industry is all about money. We get that. They don't give a rusty rats behind about quality. We get that too. But conspiracy ? Not well organized enough for that and CERTAINLY not loyal enough for that kind of thing.

The tide is turning. We have LOST, and Veronica Mars, and yes..even Desperate Houswives ( sex and the city in the suburbs, sort of). They will now scramble for clever writers, fresh scrpted series etc. Not in time for Buffyverse but at least we'll get something amusing and interesting to watch now.
cousine - I see the tide turning as well when it comes to reality shows. At the height of the craze, it was watercooler discussion all the time. Walking up and down the office, people were buzzing away about it. Nothing anymore. Not a peep. My office certainly may not be indicative of everywhere else, but when you combine the success of several of the new shows, with the downward trend in discussion of the reality shows, I think it is starting to settle down. Thank God.
"I think it is starting to settle down. Thank God."

Boy, I hope you're right, although I saw an ad for a reality Gilligan's Island show today. I don't think the tide is turning fast enough for me!
I don't believe in the conspiracy theories either. The main concern for media moguls is to sell newspapers, shows, advertising, DVDs, whatever. You can lead opinion to a certain extent, but get too far ahead and you leave your readers/viewers behind. The key question in editorial offices isn't "What spin do our overlords want us to print?" but more like "What do our readers want us to say?" or "What should we say so our readers won't desert us?"

And taking the long term view, quality scripted shows have a long life cycle. Buffy will be selling DVD's, merchandising and be in syndication for years bringing in serious money. Reality shows have little life after they've aired the first time, and don't export very well. Sell a show to another country and it'll be a remake with locals rather than repeating the original.
That a lot of media consolidation went on under Clinton does not make this a non-partisan issue. The fact of the matter is that Clinton -- while a gazillion times better than the current head bozo -- was pretty much a moderate Republican. (Richard Nixon -- war criminal and would be destroyer of our constitution that he was -- had domestic policies that are downright radically liberal compared to ANY recent U.S. President. He actually contemplated national healthcare. Imagine. Clinton gave up healthcare after one try, spending his second term dealing with Monicagate and little else.)

Whether or not it resulted in the cancellation of "Angel", media consolidation is extremely serious business. As it stands right now, five or six organizations control a staggering percentage of the information available to us all. It's more "Brave New World" than "1984", but's still scary as hell, IMO.

Michael Powell has been completely deaf to all such concerns and removing him from power would be at least a step in the right direction. I could be wrong, but I believe John Kerry has substantially more integrity than Clinton to compensate for his relative lack of charisma. So, at the risk of sounding partisan (and I guess I am) yeah, vote Kerry for this or any reason you want!

[ edited by bobster on 2004-10-26 04:08 ]
Everyone crying "conspiracy theory" probably needs to read the article again. The article didn't talk about any clandestine group of wealthy moguls conspiring to eliminate genre TV through the mechanism of media consolidation, it said that media consolidation results in networks being owned by shortsighted companies who can only see the bottom line, and might be less willing to leave an expensive program on the air in order to allow it to build an audience. I think that's a reasonable argument, and it's not a "conspiracy", it's simply a potential side effect of consolidation.
Wow ... great conversation. Scott is a columnist for my site, and it's great to see his debut with us has generated some awesome discussion. I do agree .. I am not sure if a specific presidential administration really makes that much of a difference, but I can tell you that companies I am familiar with are big on consolidation, and strongly feel that they can get that from certain administrations. However, I don't think that follows strict Democratic or Republican party lines ...
It's a fact that the current adminstration has loosened restrictions on federal regulations regarding the purchase of multiple stations in given markets, and if re-elected they plan to loosen them even more.

Many stations in my region of the U.S. switched hands under the first wave of consolidations made possible by the rules changes; more consolidations are likely, with the result that fewer independent stations will exist and local news will be abandoned in favor of canned reportage fed to affiliates from a central location (already being done on the Sinclair-owned ABC station in my area).

Smaller, more unique voices are being squeezed out as mega-corporations increase and tighten their hold on the nation's airwaves. Many companies are salivating to appropriate some of the analog frequency bands currently being used by networks to broadcast TV programming. This is behind the push towards digital TV -- the official deadline is 2006 for a total conversion to non-analog broadcast signals. (Of course, this means that if you don't have a digital TV or aren't willing to cough up the bucks for a digital conversion kit, your set will go black at some point. I doubt the FCC and digital TV industry will make this deadline, however, because digital sets are still prohibitively expensive for much of the population, but that won't stop them from trying. Incidentally, the revenues from all analog broadcast frequencies that are being considered for re-allocation actually belong to the U.S. citizenry, but the idea is that they'll be bought and sold covertly so we won't see a penny of it. There's also the probability that you may have to buy digital cable service to even get the digital signal feed for your digital TV, but that's another issue altogether...).

You haven't seen much about this subject in the media yet, but you will in the coming years. Conversion to digital is on the way, and because of the profits companies stand to gain from the sale of those broadcast frequencies, nothing will stop it. It's one of the reasons broadcast TV networks are so nervous; they're going to spend billions of dollars to convert all their production and transmission equipment from analog to digital signal processing, and they don't yet know if their audiences are going to follow them quickly enough to insure such a move is profitable. Thing is, they don't have any choice.

There's one way this change has already affected many of us here. When Fox converted its signal to digital a year or so ago, Tensai lost his usual late-night analog satellite feed. As a result, Angel spoilers were cut off at the source literally overnight. It was just the beginning of the end of broadcast TV as we know it.

FCC Digital TV Factsheet

FCC Digital TV Consumer Facts

CPB Digital Transmission Conversion Timeline

Digital TV Deadline Likely 2009

FCC Lying About Digital TV?

[ edited by Wiseblood on 2004-10-26 09:05 ]
Awesome post and links, Wiseblood. I don't understand about the auction of the analog frequencies, though. How can it be done covertly when the law requires the revenues to go to the treasury?
Perhaps 'covert' is too espionage-y a word for what I was trying to convey, dreamlogic. ;) Congress will have to conduct its affairs aboveboard, at least on paper, but from what I've read I suspect there will be a lot of influence-buying and swapping by various corporate power blocs who stand to benefit from the airwave sales.

The money is supposed to go to the treasury, true, but how will 'we the people' know exactly what those sums amount to, and what they'll be used for? Who will the people of the U.S. hold accountable for spending those monies in the public interest, when most folks aren't even aware these frequencies exist and are soon to be up for grabs, or that they actually belong to everyone in this country as part of our national, publically-held resources? I guess we could 'see a penny' of it, if we knew where the funds were going; so far, though, I haven't seen any documentation whatsoever explaining how this money will be tracked or allocated, so maybe I can be forgiven for being a little skeptical that citizens will see any discernable benefit from the sale. (I'd rather my portion of the profits didn't go towards fighting wars in other places, for instance, but I'm doubtful the market forces taking control will care one way or the other what I want.)

A case could be made that those frequencies shouldn't be sold at all, since the citizenry hasn't had any opportunity to propose how the profits should be used. Unfortunately, that's business as usual for large segments of the government as we know it these days -- getting into bed with special interests and corporations and exchanging favors under the covers. Those corporations (upon whose boards sit many powerful interests connected to our goverment) will argue that they're in the best position to put them to good use, and that viewpoint will likely carry a lot of water in court should any private parties decide to raise a stink (not likely, unless there are some civil libertarian organizations out there with some seriously deep pockets).

While corporations may indeed pay out large sums for the frequencies, it's speculated by many industry watchers that what they'll end up coughing up won't be near what the true estimated value of the frequencies are, especially given the gains they'll see from using the frequencies to corner market shares and raise their company stocks, or selling them for profit to whoever is the next-highest bidder down the media food-chain. The little guys without the investment capital to claim a piece of the pie get shut out, the corps get a bargain, and the American people lose wavespace over which they'll have no say because private, rather than public, interests will have increased control over an even greater portion of the airwaves than already exists.

Bills will be passed and the buck will stop -- but not at the desk of the current president, who's never seen a bill he didn't like (mostly because the bills he doesn't like get killed before they ever make it halfway through Congress).

Broadcast TV networks are stuck in the middle of all this, and they're poised to go through the greatest period of upheaval their industry has experienced in its history. I wish them luck. They're going to need it.
Thanks. This sounds like an area where educational efforts, like yours for instance, could conceivably make a difference.

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