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Insane Policy Ideas - An end to advertising

by Zwackus Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 07:54:36 AM EST

A common theme in the various discussion on this site is that it's important for the left to have alternative ideas ready and waiting, so that when the moment comes it can be seized.  Every so often a discussion of possible policy solutions to the diverse ills of the modern world comes up, but it seems as if it would be a topic worthy of more regular attention.

So, I thought maybe I'd try and help get things started with an idea of my own.  Should this provoke an intriguing discussion, I may post more, and make it a series of sorts.  Feel free to join in the fun with your own policy ideas!

This entry tackles the problem (at least, I think it's a problem!) of advertising, and proposed a rather radical step - its complete abolition.

It's not called "Insane Policy Ideas" for nothing!

Problem - Advertising is a pernicious force in modern society, with little redeeming value.  It contributes to the unsustainable culture of consumption, warps the design process to emphasize visual style over function, encourages competition based on marketing savvy and image rather than quality or usefulness, fosters material envy and greed, and fosters insane aspirations.  Yet, advertising is more or less the entire source of funding for large swaths of the culture industry.  Without advertising, most radio, television, and periodicals would wither and die.

What to do?

UPDATE - Just to be clear, this discussion is about broadcast media, radio and television, not print media and the internet. Those are different mediums with different problems.

Many countries already use government tax dollars to either fully fund, or to at least subsidize, radio and TV.  

In the US, this is not terribly significant.  Some localities support a public access or government channel, to show meetings and deliberations and hearings and whatnot, and to allow citizens to say more or less whatever they want on television.

There is PBS, a cable television network that gets an ever dwindling portion of its funding from government sources.  There is also NPR, a radio network largely but not exclusively operated out of universities, that also receives a dwindling portion of its funding from the government.  Both rely at least in part on begging to survive.  Both pitch their programming towards the more culturally sophisticated/pretentious snob set, and are heavy on traditional high culture and world culture.  They also have news that, while not perfect, is substantially better than that available in any other broadcast venue.  In both systems, much of the programming is produced by the largest and richest of the local stations, and is picked up by other stations in the network according to local authorities in charge of the member stations.

C-SPAN, the family of networks that televise the US House and Senate, is a non-profit company originally founded by and funded by the cable networks.

Everything else, to the best of my knowledge, is run by private companies and supported in large part by advertising.

NOTE - I don't know enough about how other countries subsidize their culture industries to say anything intelligent, but I suspect there are people here who do.  Please, speak up!  How does the system work in your country, what are its strengths and weaknesses as you see them, and how do you think it could be improved?

PBS and NPR are not in the same business as the private networks and cable channels.  They don't produce sitcoms or dramas and whatnot with the sole goal of attracting the biggest possible audience, but rather, they try to produce programs according to a particular notion of good and useful programming that will be interesting and informative to the viewers.  That is, programming decisions are at least in some small way ideologically driven, in a way that is distinctly different from the private networks.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it is important to note.

Whether anyone reading this post is fond of mass-market radio and television or not, many people are, and it is safe to say that it would be missed should it disappear.  I think it is also safe to say that replacing the diverse private media with any sort of state media system, no matter how decentralized or independent, would not be a satisfactory solution.  There is a certain dynamic to the competition between private media companies that, I think, is impossible to replicate via state media.

I am not saying that state-sponsored or supported media outlets are useless, just that they are not the solution for everything.  Their role, and ways to reform the currently existing entities, is a different discussion.

I also think that the diverse ecology of the private broadcast media is something that is worth preserving.  Maybe some people disagree on this point.  It's worthy of discussion.

So, what to do?

My idea is as follows.

  1.  Abolish all commercial advertisements over the public airwaves.  This may be unconstitutional in the US, as advertisement has been ruled a form of free speech, but so what.

  2.  Establish a government-fund to support broadcast media.  Money from the fund is to be doled out to the various media outlets entirely according to the number of viewers they are able to draw, on a program by program basis.

The way I see it, this would more or less replicate the system of incentives and rewards that drives programming decisions by private companies in the current ad-supported model, minus the foul and pernicious effect of advertising on both programming decisions and upon the populace subjected to the advertising.

This is not a solution to the ideological biases perpetuated by corporate media consolidation.  That is a different problem with a completely different set of solutions.

The major flaws I see with this plan would be its great expense, government censorship at the funding stage, and the fact that it would destroy whole sectors of the economy.

Other than that, what's wrong with this idea?  Do you have a better one for dealing with this problem?

Abolishing Advertising - Good idea or not?
. Good Idea, and I like your proposed remedy. 18%
. Good Idea, but even though I don't like your proposed remedy, I think there is a possible solution. 27%
. Good idea, but I don't think there is a possible solution. 27%
. Bad idea, advertising and the private media shouldn't be abolished. 9%
. Bad idea, private media should be abolished. 0%
. Other - explain in comments. 18%

Votes: 11
Results | Other Polls
How do you handle the problem of having governmental control of the media? The BBC and NPR are bad enough already...
by asdf on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 08:47:52 AM EST
Are they any worse than the non-government controlled bits?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 09:07:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not by a long shot. Oh, wait, that was a rhetorical question, wasn't it?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 12:34:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The control and funding of state-sponsored media are different a different issue, I think.  I'm not advocating that all media be bought and operated by the government - I'm just advocating that its funding come from the government, in a completely different form than it is now.  NPR, for example, is not given government funding according to its listener base.

I don't have time now, but I'll try and flesh this out in more detail later.

by Zwackus on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 05:38:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting idea to be debated.

I think advertising id one of the worst pollutions we are submitted to.

However, In my opinion, funding networks according to the number of viewers wold have the same effect as advertising: to draw a greater number of viewers, they would broadcast cheap programmes touting the vast public.

By the way, you did not address the problem for the printed press and internet media.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 09:28:05 AM EST
What about using that procedure which I recognize is getting unfashionable, that of voting ? People actually voting for which channel they want to see financed ; with proportional subsidy.

People tend to express choices that are not as demagogic as what they actually look at.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 10:27:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These are two separate problems: the crap shown on TV, and advertisement itself because it encourages people to need stuff they didn't need before.

The plan would eliminate the last but keep the first. There is a lot to say for that. After all, the crap on TV is apparently well-watched, and reasonably appreciated by the public at large.

But the big question here is, who will determine the total budget for television?

by GreatZamfir on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 12:29:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this is the strength of this proposal, actually.

A lot of the stuff on TV is crap.  But in any kind of creative endeavor, the vast majority of product is crap.  Funding cultural production really is like the lottery - most of the time you lose, but when you win, you win big, and you can't win if you don't play.

I hardly watch TV these days, being in Japan, but I do miss it at times.  American companies, both network and cable, have been producing quite a bit of quality programming lately, in dramas, comedies, and animation.  I generally think this is a worthwhile thing for society as a whole.  The crappy shows are just something that you have to put up with, both because people are imperfect, and because taste really does differ.

by Zwackus on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 07:28:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On of the problems of banning advertising is that it will hurt the small guy more than the big multinational.

If people do not know about the goods and services you offer, they will not buy them. Multinationals are known, and will have the resources to get around any ban on advertising. The little guy will be almost completely out of luck.

To provide a bit of just how difficult banning advertising would be:

Some possibilities include positioning of products in a store,product placements in movies, or sponsoring charities or sports events.

A second, related problem is that it will hurt the ability of people to run their daily lives. If you need to find an apartment for rent - it will be much more difficult without advertising.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 12:09:41 PM EST
Yes, in the core, advertisement is simply a good thing, bringing people with needs together with people with solutions. Even if people didn't know they had needs before, that is not necessarily a sign that something bad is happening.

Finding solutions to problems people were not aware of is sometimes simply progress. No one missed the walkman before it existed, but once there it clearly had a useful role.

by GreatZamfir on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 12:34:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Simple solutions can have some unintended consequences. In this case, it would probably make the power of large corporations and multinationals even greater than they are now and move us even further down the road of a Corporatocracy. It would probably also further disempower the poor by making it more difficult and more expensive to find such basic things as housing and food, as well as further limit the ability of the poor to do anything as creative as self-employment.

This is a high price to pay for an end to the consumer society.

There are other consequences of banning advertising. Just how much control over your life are you willing to give the state?

Yes, in the core, advertisement is simply a good thing,

No - making fundamental changes to society is not something that should be undertaken lightly - based on some sort of feel good left-wing position. This is doubly true when attempting to graft political ideas from one system onto a radically different system. We need to understand what the consequences of our actions will be in the real world - all the consequences.

What is needed is not the banning of advertising, but a complete overhaul of for whom does the government operate.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 01:38:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't joking! I seriously think advertisement is basically good, so I think we mostly agree.
by GreatZamfir on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 07:21:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ops! Sorry.

I think we may agree on the problems of banning advertising. I would not go so far as to think that advertising as it currently exists is basically a good thing.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 09:38:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of advertisement is simple, informative and aimed at a specific public. Think small newspaper ads or the ads in professional magazines. People value these. In fact, some magazines are hardly more than collected job ads.

I think television advertisement is a very specific, and relatively harmful version of advertisement. It's not informative, expensive and broadcast, meaning it hits everyone, including lots of people outside their targets

by GreatZamfir on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 11:11:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hate to say it, but when you mentioned walkman's the first thing that came to mind was hearing damage!

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 10:01:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good issues to be discussed - I'll get to these during or after work.
by Zwackus on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 05:39:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On of the problems of banning advertising is that it will hurt the small guy more than the big multinational.

Huh? Why?

What's happening now is that multinationals have a near-monopoly in media space. When was the last time you saw a TV ad for your area sustainable energy company?


Multinationals are known, and will have the resources to get around any ban on advertising.

You can ban their get-around efforts too.

The problem isn't advertising - toxic as it - so much as:

  1. Marketing as a substitute for product quality and customer service
  2. Top-down monopoly of both channels and advertisers

A much more fragmented market with companies above a certain size forced to pay a very significant media tax, balanced with breaks for the little guys, might be more useful than a total ban.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 04:53:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see the update, and it changes things. On radio a small guy can still buy time. On television I think you usually have to be a medium sized company to afford it during normal hours.

The update has some potential problems listed with the proposal. At this time I do not have much to add to the update.

Your proposal of a very significant media tax balanced with breaks for the little guys is moving in the direction that I like. My preference instead of a media tax is higher progressive taxes on profits (and "double" taxation is ok by me) - taxes on usage of natural resources - including land use for building factories etc on, and taxes on pollution. And I want a strict prohibition of political funding from corporations along with strong limits as to the size of cash donations that can be made to political parties. I am also interested in some form of media breaks for the little guys as well.

When it comes to banning work arounds - it is much easier said than done.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 09:59:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. Thank you, thank you. Just a little thought. I'm just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day they'll take root. I don't know. You try. You do what you can. Kill yourselves. Seriously though, if you are, do. No really, there's no rationalisation for what you do, and you are Satan's little helpers, OK? Kill yourselves, seriously. You're the ruiner of all things good. Seriously, no, this is not a joke. "There's gonna be a joke coming..." There's no fucking joke coming, you are Satan's spawn, filling the world with bile and garbage, you are fucked and you are fucking us, kill yourselves, it's the only way to save your fucking soul. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show.

"You know what Bill's doing now, he's going for the righteous indignation dollar, that's a big dollar, a lot of people are feeling that indignation, we've done research, huge market. He's doing a good thing." Godammit, I'm not doing that, you scumbags, quit putting a godamn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!

Supreme Court says pornography is anything without artistic merit that causes sexual thoughts, that's their definition, essentially. No artistic merit, causes sexual thoughts. Hmm... Sounds like...every commercial on television, doesn't it?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 30th, 2008 at 02:55:43 PM EST

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 04:43:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Private broadcasting wasn't allowed in Germany before the Kohl government, which took the decision for purely political reasons (one of Kohl's best buddies was movie dealer Leo Kirch, who became the driving force behind most private TV channels until the late 90's).

Nowaday, I get around 35 channels through my (standard) cable, of which about 15 are public ones. Their overall audience is still about 45% for TV and 55% for radio. A certain amount of advertising is now legal for public broadcasters, but only before 8 p.m. (or during football shows).

Apart from that, all public media are financed through license fees paid by everybody who keeps a radio or TV set (or computer as of next year) "ready for use", and are governed by councils of representatives of the "societally relevant groups" (unions, churches etc.). Public TV and radio stations spend about 60% of all the money for broadcasting in Germany.

The fee is at 18,50€/ month at the moment, obviously a small price to pay for a good chunk of the media to be largely independent from advertisers. As I'm a fan of public broadcasting, I actually pay it (most students I know don't, because the fee agency can't get a warrant for your place).

The things I complain about regarding this system (it's a popular debate topic) would be seen as nitpicking by most Americans, I guess. But I'm worried that as advertising creeps into the public channels, their main objective of keeping the public informed and educate it (the famous Bildungsauftrag) seems to get lost in the hunt for viewer totals. And I shout at the TV sometimes when I see what my money is being used for. Other than that, it's worth defending.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 05:09:34 AM EST
correction: Their share of the overall audience

BTW, as the private TV channels started in the late 80's, they produced some very... uh, "creative" shows with low budgets. See what I mean:

I never understood the rules of "Tutti Frutti" (and to this day never met anyone who did), only later I realized it was all about showing tits on TV, still a taboo back then.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 05:36:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would like to take this opportunity to note a couple of things that always get on my nerves in mainstream media stories about, say, Cuba and the ex-DDR.

The first is 'Oh it's so drab 'cos there are no advertising billboards'. I see this sort of thing mentioned about Cuba, and hey, I want to go visit right away. I live in a city with virtual saturation of public space by advertising. Even train windows, even the space between escalator runs, carries an advertisement of some sort. Christ ...

The other thing is restaurants. 'Oh it sucked in East Germany, you couldn't find a restaurant anywhere after eight o'clock'. Yeah, what torture. It has never occurred to anyone the restaurant workers work long and unsociable hours for little pay, and that the 'glamour' that we get in our nice glitzy Western cities comes from exploiting mostly young women and men who are trying to get by before they can do something else? In my city, waitresses usually work a twelve-hour shift six days a week ... that's ten a.m. till ten p.m., six days. Doesn't leave much for family and friends, does it? But I suppose it's worth it, 'cos we all get to eat out.

Advertising? Here's a great idea for it. You wanna advertise, say, Coke, it goes in a massive black-and-white newsprint publication with absolute bog-standard rules. Category: Soft drinks. Product description: Water with sugar, caffeine, cola flavouring, and preservatives. Price: whatever. That's it. That's all you get to say, for anything you want to sell.

I would go for a world without advertising and without restaurants. Of course, the four-hour-day goes without saying.

And why not? Oh, I suppose it would just be too drab, wouldn't it? And we mustn't force our preferences on anyone else or anything ... except of course in the case of waitresses, who ought to be up half the day and night just so we can get a meal.

by wing26 on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 06:39:27 AM EST
Apart from restaurants, a lot else sucked in the DDR too.  
by GreatZamfir on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 07:17:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps, but to some Western observers the only thing that seemed to matter was the absence of good restaurants ... and my point is that getting anyone to work in restaurants in the first place depends on economic coercion. OK, to some extent work is a fact of life. But do some people really have to work when their loved ones/potential loved ones aren't?

I understand the DDR had a population of about 17 million. So - and I ask for this metric just for comparision in the economic coercion stakes - how many sex workers did it have? There are nearly a quarter of a million in HK, but that's Asia. Capitalist glamour again, you see. Then again, HK is quite developed economically (i.e. it's not Thailand). So that would give well in excess of half a million sex workers in the DDR, if it was doing 'as well' as the paragons of the (Asian) capitalist world in this regard.

Perhaps if you give people a guaranteed basic standard of living, they all choose not to work in the 'hospitality' industries - broadly defined. And is that so bad?

by wing26 on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 07:34:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, apparently the Stasi had millions of people on its informer list. And the country had armed guards and a wall to keep the population from escaping. That must count as some measure of its people's well-being.

I am not sure what you are trying to prove, but I am quite sure the DDR is not going to be a good example for it.

by GreatZamfir on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 10:59:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your contention that restaurants didn't exist because nobody would work in them seems flawed.  Under the state socialist model, individuals did not have the authority to open private businesses like restaurants.  Their absence more likely points to the general disregard for the consumer economy that plagued all state socialist economies - on the one hand, the first man in space, on the other, the Trabant.

I found Catherine Verdery's examination of socialist accounting practices in Romania quite revealing on this point, as she tracked the systems of incentives built in the accounting systems to show how the system regarded any goods provided to consumers, of any sort, as a loss - and thus, unsurprisingly, firms tended to minimize losses. This was from one of her chapters in the book, What was Socialism, and What Comes Next

by Zwackus on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 04:58:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Coke, it goes in a massive black-and-white newsprint publication with absolute bog-standard rules. Category: Soft drinks. Product description: Water with sugar, caffeine, cola flavouring, and preservatives."

Sounds a lot like google ads. I think this is a good point your making, separating the information from the seduction. Even if it doesn't work perfectly, it could still be good.

by GreatZamfir on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 07:19:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing I liked a lot when I was working in Algeria was the absence of advertising...

I would go for a world without advertising and without restaurants.

To be consistent, you should also ban bars and pubs, theatres, movie theatres, operas, music concerts, dance halls, sports events... and close all shops, public transports, train stations and airports outside the scheduled 4 working hours...

BTW, I worked in DDR, and you could find restaurants after 8 pm (and you knew the STASI was watching you...).

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 02:04:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sounds wonderful to me. First, I support U.S. public television and radio, but not all of the time. When Bush rearranged the national BOD of PBS, they started to add advertising almost from the start of their tenure. At first, it was just more acknowledgements concerning large-dollar supporters of particular segments. Then the acknowledgements became short descriptions of what neat-o corporations/institutions they were. Lately, almost the first seven minutes of every show is taken up by this crap. That, plus Bill Moyers' retirement, and I stopped subscribing. (Moyers came back, so I'm paying again.) So - I'm not against some federal - or other governmental - support, but I object strongly to the commercials that have been slowly introduced into PBS (substantially less of this on NPR).

But there is a different solution inherent in the support system for PBS/NPR. In the Portland, OR area (southwest Washington in my case) I support 3 subscription radio stations. Collectively, I listen to them 90% of the time that I listen to radio, and I could easily forego the negligible amount of the commercial stations that I almost accidentally hear.

KBOO is a progressive station with an eclectic set of shows, running from the morning 'folk [song] strip' to weekday afternoon latino programming to 'Positively Revolting' talk radio to daily 'Democracy Now' transcripts to middle-eastern music and news on Sunday AM to weekday evening soul and R&B sessions - and more. They go 24/7 and have been here almost 40 years. They are my first choice 60% of the time, and I give them $60 per year - sometimes more.

KMHD is a 'jazz, blues, and npr news' station that's been around for quite awhile, too. They have some support from Mt. Hood Community College, which is part of the Oregon school system. I listen to them 10% of the time and give them $60 about every 3 years.

We have a classical music station (I forget the call letters) that is well-supported by local businesses and upper-pay-scale folks. As a friend of mine from Alabama once said to me, I have to have my daily quota of classical music, so I listen to them about 20% of my radio-listening time. I give them $60 about every other year, because they play so much third-rate tripe from the composers that you never heard for a very good reason.

Point is - what about subscription? A la carte?

As for advertising - word-of-mouth works very well for me. And if I need to look for new solutions/products, the internet is easily the most useful and quickest medium that we have invented to-date. Why would I endure the hours of BS in radio and TV commercials to find the one little innovation that might be of interest?

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 05:30:32 PM EST
To what extent is advertising performing a social good in providing a shared experience and background noise to people?

Would banning advertising work in the face of (say) music and programmes that do nothing but promote a lifestyle based on conspicious consumption?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 05:33:19 PM EST
My approach would be similar to Chris Cook's scenario WRT co-operatives vs. corporations: a subscription approach might out-compete the commercial stations. It certainly did in my case.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 05:42:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we are moving towards an entirely different model (never seen before) in which content providers and 'subscribers' will be indistinguishable.

ET as an example. Frictionless media (ie almost nil transaction cost) is upon us. WiMax will release a huge amount of localised content and distribution.

Here is another model that is happening right now.

The Chris Cook model fits prefectly into this.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 06:17:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link. My nephew has a group that might be very interested in this development. However, it looks like subscribers/investors in the same sense that I was describing above to me. In what way do the subscribers and providers become indistinguishable in the particular approach described in the link?

As far as ET fitting your model, I agree.

Interesting coincidence - on KBOO this evening there was a roundtable with three presenters who promoted different parts of the model - one for a virtual labor exchange with one-to-one negotiation of agreed value; one for something on the order of kw-hour credits; missed the first one but it was in the same vein.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 11:18:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beware the power of the echo chamber.

If you base your estimation of media consumption on ET users and other politically interested progressives, you might be surprised at how little the general population bothers with web 2.0 - and how many of those who do bother aren't doing what we'd traditionally call 'media' services.

For myself, I get almost all my news from the public radio, the traffic newspapers and ET. Because, frankly, there is not a single Danish TV station that has more signal than noise. And I'm not talking about the technical quality of the broadcast either. And while I am intellectually aware that the vast majority of my countrymen get much - if not most - of their news and views from the telly, my emotions have not quite caught up to the fact that many people seem to regard brain-dead 'talent' programmes (that I often as not have never heard of before I read about them on the front page of the local newspaper - frequently in bigger print than the real news) as more interesting than - say - the half-dozen slow-motion genocides going on in the world at the moment.

Sampling bias is powerful...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 11:11:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The advertising industry (as it is now) is dying a slow death. False narratives can only be sustained by control ie a subset of propaganda.  The repetition of a monologue. Branding was more or less invented by Joseph Goebbels - it's been downhill ever since.

  • Monoculture
  • Monologue
  • Monotony
  • Monoliner

They are all wrong.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 06:24:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is the heart of the issue, I guess - is something like this even a worthy goal?

Under the current operating model for the broadcast industries, I would say that advertising is a pernicious and damaging force that is worth stopping in its own right.  Video in particular is such a psychologically powerful medium that its continuous use by advertisers creates and perpetuates a variety of social ills with an intensity that is not matched by other advertising forms.  I have less problem with internet and print ads, largely because they are so much easier to avoid, and so much less intrusive on the operation of the medium.  If you're reading an article, you don't have to watch an ad to keep reading, while if you're watching a TV program, you cannot continue watching if the program stops and a commercial comes on.

Other media and cultural narratives promoting consumerism will survive for so long as the consumer economy continues to exist, of course.  Oh well.

However, as some have suggested, the advertiser-supported model for the production and distribution of culture may be on its way out.  This would change the picture entirely.

Although the structure might be theoretically plausible, it seems to have quite a ways to go in terms of scale.  Operating small non-profit radio stations is quite a bit different from producing and distributing television dramas, just in terms of infrastructure and money.  

Now, money and production values don't always translate into quality, but just because a lot of expensive things aren't any good doesn't mean that nobody should be able to make expensive things.  

Any ideas on bridging that gap?

by Zwackus on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 07:11:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seems like a question of scale to me. If we have sufficient subscribers, all kinds of neat productions can be financed. We go to Ashland, OR every year during the first week of April to take in 4 to 5 plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival theaters. I've seen productions that beat 99.99% of anything on television. OSF is not a huge or super-expensive operation. It pays guild scale to a substantial and very professional crew and pays for the whole operation primarily on membership dues and ticket sales. It gets a few grants and large donations, but anything of its quality level should attract some of that.

Your main point about the impact of TV ads is well-made. The media is the massage. (TIVO does help in that one can record, then blast through the ads.)

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Jan 31st, 2008 at 11:32:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if subscribers are willing to accept that that one good documentary is played twice a week every week for a month (instead of - say - some crappy game show or third-tier Hollywood movie), then you could take the (little) money that would have gone into the game show/bad movie and put it into the documentary. Re-use of programming is certainly one way to do it.

But really, what I'm looking forward to is the time where programming-on-demand is as easy and fast as turning on the TV - where you configure your box not with a number of stations, but with a number of programmes, and when you turn on the telly, you get a list of those programmes you haven't watched yet. Video podcasting, in other words, but directly to the TV without the hassle of logging on to your 'puter and finding some service provider on the 'net. It has to be easy, because for every ten seconds of effort above that required by the TV, you lose something like half your audience (no, that's not a hard number - I just pulled it out of my ass, but it seems to fit).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 11:20:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not referring to documentaries, so much, but things which by their very nature are rather expensive.  Set-heavy dramas, for example - the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, which is one of the very few recent TV shows I've bothered to watch.

In general, I think the overall budget for the production of video culture shouldn't be all that much smaller than it is now, and the money should be there for ambitious creative teams to do ambitious things that need serious money.  I take seriously the notion that video is a serious art form, and should be funded as such, despite the fact that so much of what is produced is utter crap.  That's the sad truth of every art form.

I also don't believe that video should be solely informative, composed entirely of serious documentaries and news programs and discussion.  Such programming has its place, but an exclusive diet of it is just as numbing as an exclusive diet of reality TV would be.

by Zwackus on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 06:34:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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