Does the delivery system really make a difference, or do we just like to let ourselves get all caught up in something new? I think the answer is, yes.
Last week Lord Google announced Google TV, its proprietary flavor of The Next Big Thing: Internet television, IPTV. I’m not surprised to see Google out front on this: a system to deliver television programs over a fast Internet connection to a set top box for presentation on the ginormous high definition display at the heart of the family entertainment center. If I can sit in my big comfy chair and enjoy cool Internet stuff on the same big clear monitor where I watch my teevee shows, and can get my shows on demand instead of on someone else’s schedule, why wouldn’t I?
This nirvana is not without its perils, though (but you knew that, right?): along with further diminishment of shared communal experience, local broadcast TV stations and their news operations are at economic risk. The respected former newsman and Silicon Valley CEO Alan Mutter makes the case for the threat to local stations: once I can watch anything on my giant TV on demand, I will; so, the value item that local TV stations offer advertisers—a mass audience at a time certain—will start to diminish; and with it, the high profits local stations earn.
Then Mutter takes the next step: reduced profits mean less revenue available for the local broadcaster to spend on programming, specifically local news, which is the majority of any local station’s local programming.
Now I have my issues with local TV news, but I agree with Mutter:
A contraction in local TV news coverage, combined with the recent curtailment of newspaper coverage in most communities, will deprive our society of even more of the authoritatively reported information that is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy.
So, it’s our convenience and amusement vs. an informed and active citizenry? Uh oh…