Did Max Bickford get a v-chip implant?
February 15, 2002 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Did Max Bickford get a v-chip implant? "...the FCC ruined television throughout the 1990s by allowing mega corporations and multinationals to gobble up TV networks and distribution outlets, including cable and satellite companies..." Now that the big corporations own the content, they obviously have the right to change it. It's capitalism, pure and simple, but it may also mean bad TV. Does the goverment have the right, responsiblity, or obligation to to re-regulate the industry, just so the quality of programming improves?
posted by bingo (14 comments total)
...and are there any larger issues here, like the role of good art in the health of a culture? Especially the role of good or bad tv in a culture that consumes so much of it?
posted by bingo at 1:47 PM on February 15, 2002

Doesn't the public still own the airwaves? On some fundamental level we have to ask if bad TV is the best use for the electromagnetic spectrum. Not that it matter anyway since most people have cable TV. Speaking of which - if I have to sit through commercials on cable – shouldn’t cable be free or at least commercial free? Some one hasn't optimized their business plan... or maybe they have.
posted by wfrgms at 1:51 PM on February 15, 2002

They're wedging in more and more commercials, and TV is getting harder for me to watch. I'm down to Space Ghost and the Gilmore Girls, and frankly, I only really turn the mute button off for the bits of the Gilmore Girls that have Rory in them. I actually have to read books now to fill in the gaps.
I'm upset.
I want to veg.
posted by dong_resin at 1:59 PM on February 15, 2002

It's true that people can just stop watching the major networks. But as I think the article mentions, many of the "smaller" channels are really just subsidiaries of the big networks anyway. It probably costs less money to make a single show than it does to own and run a whole channel...so perhaps the good old days representing something closer to a free market.
posted by bingo at 2:04 PM on February 15, 2002

i find the idea that the government could regulate the industry and have the quality of programming improve absolutely laughable.

programming aside, what is really offensive is how the airwaves are simply handed over to these large companies. the spectrum giveaway tied to digital television is one of the more blatant examples of where the government simply rolled over for the big media companies.

(and there's simply oodles of good programming on television. yes, there's oodles of bad programming, too. i think people who like to bitch about the decline in quality have short memories for all the bad programming that came with the good stuff before, too.)
posted by jimw at 2:06 PM on February 15, 2002

i find the idea that the government could regulate the industry and have the quality of programming improve absolutely laughable.

Well...the idea is that it would be a sort of anti-trust regulation, to increase competition. It's not for the government to decide the content.
posted by bingo at 2:19 PM on February 15, 2002

i wonder if diane english was singing the same tune when cbs brought her in to re-tool ink. (you know, the ted danson-mary steenburgen show that had its first four episodes totally scrapped, and diane english was brought on board to fix it. it didn't last a full season. what about those poor original creators who had their work yanked from under them?)

i don't see any really compelling evidence that allowing networks to have ownership stakes in their shows has resulted in some tragic downfall of quality programming.

oh, and the original letter from the wga that sparked the article is an interesting read. i find their argument that repurposing of shows (like the replaying of 24 on fx or once & again on lifetime) has reduced the diversity of programming to be particularly unconvincing. is it somehow better when they replay decades-old m*a*s*h and golden girls reruns? i don't see any evidence that such repurposing is pushing out new programming. (on the contrary, it's given a way for a show like 24, which wasn't really pulling the ratings to justify it's continued existence, to survive.)

i'm surprised the wga didn't complain about those damn reruns that keep being shown on the cable networks.
posted by jimw at 3:45 PM on February 15, 2002

The government influences programming as it is; but not exactly in a direct way. For example, the government has in the past bought advertising time from networks, then offered to let them re-sell it to other advertisers if they included an anti-drug message in the content of their programming.

It's not for the government to decide the content, indeed.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:10 PM on February 15, 2002

Does the goverment have the right, responsiblity, or obligation to to re-regulate the industry, just so the quality of programming improves?

1. No.
2. No.
3. No.
4. Define "quality."
posted by davidmsc at 7:17 AM on February 16, 2002

I have started watching PBS almost exclusively.
posted by bjgeiger at 11:29 AM on February 16, 2002

4. Define "quality."

Do you not believe that some shows are inherently better than others?
posted by bingo at 12:22 PM on February 16, 2002

Absolutely! There are some shows that I would pay to watch, and there are others that are utterly despicable. However, bingo, MY definition of "quality" is not the same as yours, or anyone else's, and I certainly don't want the government to be the arbiter of "quality programming."
posted by davidmsc at 1:41 PM on February 16, 2002

davidmsc, I don't either. Please read the link though. It's not about the government deciding content. It's about the government preventing the networks from deciding content. Which is to say, a show would be made by a production company, and then the network could show it if they wanted to, or not show it. But now (and it hasn't always been like this) they often own the actual show, so if they don't like it, they just change it. It makes sense in terms of marketing and so on, but it decreases the chance that shows like Murphy Brown and The Sopranos (both discussed in the link) will ever come into being to begin with, or will retain their initial integrity once they get popular.

I'm not saying for sure that it's the right way to go, but I think it's an interesting dilemna. I don't know for sure, but I wonder if the recent don't-do-drugs theme that is helping to ruin Buffy has something to do with this situation.
posted by bingo at 3:45 PM on February 16, 2002

buffy is produced by fox. it aired on the wb and upn, neither of which are owned by fox.

(do you really want to make the case that murphy brown retained its original integrity? it was a show that limped off the air, not a show that was put to rest at the peak of its popularity. and look at diane english's follow-up: living in captivity, which disappeared almost immediately.)

the article remains a weak regurgitation of a flawed argument from the writer's union. it all springs from an axiom of "there are fewer quality television being produced", which i hardly think is self-evident. (and i suspect is entirely false, given a reasonable definition of 'quality television'.)
posted by jimw at 3:24 PM on February 17, 2002

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