Sunday, July 29, 2007

Television Must Die

It’s July, 2007. Media Conglomerates are scrambling to develop and deploy the perfect combination of on demand programming and unrestricted mobility. They strive to be the first to offer customers any movie, TV show, documentary, video blog, or event ever offered through the traditional media via non traditional devices. Companies such as Joost and BitTorrent partner with Google or Apple and grapple with the issues present with both streaming videos (low quality pictures with buffering and disconnects) and digital downloads (piracy and copyright infringement.) There are questions about how large of a customer base will watch a 1 hour TV show let alone a 2 hour movie on their 2-3” cell phone screen or their computer monitor. But a larger question looms. Why do we want it? What purpose do immediate M*A*S*H or Dallas episodes serve? When do we will feel the need to see Back to the Future or Good Will Hunting on an emergency basis? And lest we forget, media companies survive based on how well they can blur the lines between what you need and what you want.
As “blinks” (2 second commercials) and “adlets” (5 second commercials) add to advertising companies’ arsenals, we can expect the blurring to continue and to further endure the onslaught of almost constant product pushing. Our movie theaters, bus stops, highways, restaurants, and colleges have long been awash with advertising jingles, sexually positioned models, and focus group recommended colors. But whereas those former refuges have been overtaken, television was designed from the beginning as an advertising vehicle. That’s all television is and as a mesmerizing tool for blurring our needs and wants, the question remains, Who Needs Television or any idea based on it? The concept that we may be required to pay more for commercial free programming underscores the extremes we may agree to in order to be free of the unending assault offered by television. Watching television, simply, is only an exercise in deciding which products we may need; which brings us to one point. People really only need food, air, water, shelter, and, in some cases, medicine to live. We are biological creatures who have been convinced that we need many things we do not. And as we know, it is a self-perpetuating cycle, so, as an example, once you get that PlayStation you needed, you need to get games, obviously, replace controllers that break and upgrade or feel like you’d lose the money invested up to that point. Once we are able to reestablish the solid difference between what we need and what we want, the sense of urgency and necessity that often drives people to overextend their credit or to file for bankruptcy will start to recede. I mention in other entries on this blog that decisions about how we spend our time are the most important we ever make. Spending time watching television is wasteful. Do I watch television, yes. But as I opt for reading, writing, and watching DVDs more and more, and watch TV less, my tolerance for it continues to decrease. As with other decisions in my life, I evaluate what I will watch and I mute all the commercials. Give it a try. The more I mute, the less tolerance I have for advertisers’ endless manipulation. I wish you luck. Spend a week not watching any television and see how much time you have to do what you want, not what advertisers tell you you want. Time to read, write, call old friends, exercise, or catch up on your sleep. You’ll be free to do what you want, while your television dies a peaceful death.

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