Friday, April 06, 2007

The TV Is Dead. Long Live the TV -

I have read a couple of articles lately that, together, conspire to depress me a bit. Take this one, for example, The TV Is Dead. Long Live the TV -. It's about how strong and vibrant television is now and will continue to be over the next decade. Seems innocent enough. But this morning I read an article from yesterday's Financial Times about the guy who started MySpace and sold it (as part of a larger asset) to Murdoch, and is on to his next big thing. Let's see if I can find that article on the Web...Hmm. 10 minutes later, I can't turn it up. The Financial Times site is not very helpful. The article was just published yesterday. You'd think... Well, enough of that. The point is that the article was really depressing. It was about how pervasive big money has become in the economics of the Web. It was about how one couldn't just come up with a good idea anymore, it had to be someone with lots of financial backing because the dynamics have moved beyond that era.

And I'm putting these two articles together with some of the points Lessig has made over the years in his books about how entrenched media giants have successfully shut down public potential to use new media in ways that threatened to undermine the older business models. He tells these stories in Free Culture and the Future of Ideas. This battle appeared anew most sharply in the net neutrality issue that's been playing out before Congress for the last several sessions, but these articles suggest that the dynamics of the Web itself, even unimpaired by gatekeepers charging more for what we think of today as normal speeds of transmission, have moved beyond the possibility that it can be the force for expansion of freedoms and expression that people like Benkler extol. That the war could already be lost, right when success seems to be within grasp, geez that's depressing.

These articles also make me aware that I am really out of touch with the mainstream (I know, the mainstream is supposedly becoming a thing of the past 'grace a' the long tail, but that's just the point that's at issue here, is it?). The dollars that are being spent on consuming popular culture are astounding, and the preferences mystifying. The image above I clipped from the NBC official tv site. I have no idea who it is or what she does on tv. The image is badly degraded in the copy, compared to the way it displays on the NBC site. That nicely illustrates the 'scared to death mainstream content owner' and the overall point of this post. If you look directly into the eye of the tiger, it's hard to believe you're not just lunch. Game over. How could we have imagined otherwise?

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