Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1978) is a book by Jerry Mander, who argues that many of the problems with television are inherent in the medium and technology itself, and thus cannot be reformed. From Wikipedia page:

“Television has effects, very important effects, aside from the content, and they may be more important. They organize society in a certain way. They give power to a very small number of people to speak into the brains of everyone else in the system night after night after night with images that make people turn out in a certain kind of way. It affects the psychology of people who watch. It increases the passivity of people who watch. It changes family relationships. It changes understandings of nature. It flattens perception so that information, which you need a fair amount of complexity to understand it as you would get from reading, this information is flattened down to a very reduced form on television. And the medium has inherent qualities which cause it to be that way.”

The Smartphone is Eating Television

“TV viewership peaked in the 2010 season and has been falling ever since. […] Smartphones are winning and traditional television is losing, especially when it comes to viewers in the most desirable 18 to 34 demographic. […] TV viewing by all age groups peaked in the 2009-2010 season, and has been on the decline ever since. Until that point, the audience for TV had grown every year since 1949.”

The Smartphone is Easting Television (Fortune)

“We believe the future of TV is apps”

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that during the announcement of the latest version of Apple TV back in September. I didn’t give it much thought at the time but after using apps on the TV for a few days, I’m starting to get a sense of what he was talking about. Not sure I can describe it in any useful way.

Back in the 50s we had two or three channels and everything came through one of them (in real time). Cable brought us more pipes but you had to be watching the right pipe at the right time to see what you wanted (or what the network wanted you to see). VCRs and (later) DVRs allowed us to time shift and skip commercials but its was still a channels-of-programs world.

The iPhone introduced the concept of apps. The New York Times has an app; ESPN has an app; all gods children got an app. Now the world is mobile and apps is where it’s at.

reutersTVThis is where I was going to try to describe how “apps for the TV” delivers a fundamentally different experience than the current TV model but I don’t think I’m up to the task. I know it’s a cliche but you’ll just have to play with for a bit get it. But I do have one example.

The new (4th generation) Apple TV comes with an app for Reuters TV. You can watch individual stories (Trump on SNL) or categories (World News). Or you can let the app build a “newscast” for you. Tell it how much time you have (5, 15, 30 minutes) and it does the rest.

I’ve been impressed with the few of these I’ve watched. No high profile anchors and no famous network correspondents. I’m reminded of the early days of CNN Headline News with anonymous (but competent) reports told you what was happening. The reporters I’ve watched on Reuters TV are not slick or polished but they get the job done and the story is clearly more important than the people reporting.

The production values are excellent, they’ve just done away with a lot of the shit (glitzy graphics, etc) the networks have piled on over the years. And it’s rare to see an NBC newscast without at least one “story” promoting the network (“More on the TODAY SHOW tomorrow morning…”).

Reuters TV did toss in a couple of 10 second (?) ads but they were not intrusive and they weren’t aimed at the 65+ demo.

So, if I get home in the middle of the afternoon and want a summary of news, Reuters TV can give me what I want; the length I want; when I want it. On my new big screen TV. Apps do this well. Far better than networks and cable channels.

As I get more comfortable with TV = apps I’ll take another stab at describing this. I’d be very interested in hearing from others using the latests version of Apple TV.

The people formerly known as advertisers

Media researcher Gordon Borrell says “we’ve reached the end of the Golden Age of Advertising.”

  • 82% of SMBs have established their own media channel in the form of a website or social media page.
  • Since 2007, spending has skyrocketed to the point at which businesses last year spent 72% more on marketing services and promotions than they had spent 10 years earlier. Meanwhile, the annual expenditure on local advertising was 22% less than it was a decade ago.
  • “Over the next 12 months, the gap will almost certainly widen to the point that all traditional advertising channels — print, broadcast, outdoor and mail — begin to look like niche support mechanisms to a local businesses’ digital marketing plan.”

The Lumpkin Family

The Lumpkin Family

I’d watch a TV show based on a 50’s era family that made their living performing on small town radio stations. I might make one or both of the children “little people” passing as kids. Maybe the wife transgender. The gimmick would be they are all very talented but couldn’t make it as solo acts and discover — by humorous accident — that they’re a hit as a family. The thing practically writes itself.

TV Night

I don’t recall the last time I watched more TV in a single evening. Wasn’t planned, we just sort of stumbled from one show to the next. A new series from Amazon; one from Netflix; and a new one on the Syfy channel.

  • The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K. Dick’s award-winning novel, and executive produced by Ridley Scott, explores what it would be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States.
  • 12 Monkeys. I was a big fan of the Bruce Willis (Brad Pitt) movie so wasn’t expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. We’ll see if it has legs.
  • The big surprise of the evening was Lilyhammer. Steven Van Zandt plays a NY mobster who turns in his pals and has to relocate with a new identity and chooses Lilyhammer (Norway!) I think there have been two seasons of this so I’m late to the dance but boy I enjoyed the first installment. Van Zandt is playing the very same wise guy we got to know in the Sopranos but it some how works in the new setting.

Be Right Back (Black Mirror)


An online service that creates a virtual presence for a departed loved one, based on all the photos, videos, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc etc. I’m sure I’ve posted on that several times over the years, eagerly anticipating some digital immortality. Once again, Charlie Brooker has changed my mind with the Be Right Back episode of Black Mirror. If you’ve recently lost someone close, you might want to skip this one (or wait a bit)

TV is for old people

“The median age of a broadcast or cable television viewer during the 2013-2014 TV season was 44.4 years old, a 6 percent increase in age from four years earlier. Audiences for the major broadcast network shows are much older and aging even faster, with a median age of 53.9 years old, up 7 percent from four years ago. The median age of viewers who watch CBS is 58.7 years old. Fox has the youngest broadcast audience, with a median age of 47.8 years. Live television viewing (is) down 13 percent for all ages except for viewers 55 years and older.”

Source: Research by media analyst Michael Nathanson of Moffett Nathanson Research. (WashingtonPost.com)