— Sometimes, when
an idea gains
no stopping it, even to
This is particularly true when it’s repeated
often enough and becomes a default reality.
Lobbyists, politicians and businesses use
the press to facilitate default realities. We,
the press, dutifully comply. The Internet
gives us a universal fire hose.
So it is, the idea that broadcast television
is obsolete and should be eliminated has
permeated the collective mindset, like Crocs
or pet rocks. There is no discussion about
what the country would look like without the
medium that conveyed to nearly every man,
woman and child in the country that President
John F. Kennedy was felled by an assassin.
Even within the broadcast community,
there are frustrated conversations in general
agreement that broadcast has had its
day. The exasperation is due in part to the
discordant nature of the industry, comprised
as it is of hundreds of businesses of every
imaginable size, all competing among
themselves. Getting them all on the same
page at the same time is virtually impossible.
It doesn’t help that the ownership
demographic is almost exclusively older,
white and male, countervailing the medium’s
public service justification in terms of
Broadcasting has a lot going against it
right now, including its heavy reliance on
retrans fees. Cable and satellite aren’t going
to oppose spectrum reclamation, especially
with cable shedding subscribers. All the
traditional distribution networks are under
pressure, not just broadcasting, which could
but does not promote itself so as not to
further irritate the pay providers, I’m told.
Consequently, free, over-the-air TV’s kind of
a secret, and that’s too bad, because when
it goes, it’s gone. We will all be either at the
mercy of one of two wireless providers, or in
left the dark.
I hope the new FCC chairman has the
gravitas to work for the public, and not
simply as an industry shill. There are
alternatives to the wholesale elimination
of broadcasting, and these should be