Thursday, February 21, 2008

Commercial Strangulation

A recent posting of mine at with reference to commercials "strangulating" us.

Television has dutifully shot itself in its foot by overwhelming us with commercials, compressing shows with split screens, and otherwise editing shows down to the bare minimum in the interest of maximizing profits. Shows from the 1970s such as MASH had eleven minute segments, and shows on the current Food Network and Discovery Channel have segments that are six or seven minutes at best. I had long since given up on the broadcast networks, but in these times, the worst offenders are the pay channels - be they from a cable or satellite service. In the glory days of "pay" television, we were spending money to avoid the commercials that plagued viewers of the free networks. Now, it's almost as though the "cable" channels are as bad, if not worse, than their so-called "free" broadcast networks. One has to wonder where our subscription fees to these cable/satellite services go?

I can understand broadcast (i.e. "free") networks running commercials ad nauseum, but then again, one gets what they pay for. It costs nothing (other than the price of a television and its electricity) to watch NBC or Fox. But when paying for the right to see "cable" channels, we shouldn't theoretically be seeing the same amount (if not more) of commercials. The sad truth is that cable channels can get away with murder; they provide content that attracts audiences, and worse yet, the world of television is tilted toward the world of cable and satellite.

Without question, commercials are strangling and altering programming content. The split screens we see on various networks are simply a televised replica of the banners and advertisements we see on the internet. Why do networks push their web presences so passionately? Check one of their sites. In the time you load their page, they're able to surround their content with several ad banners and effectively "run their commercials". One would think that this ease of potential advertising revenue from an alternate medium would relieve us of the constant barrage of televised ads, but that isn't the case. We're stuck with an ever-growing reliance on the media, and since they know this, those outlets are empowered to dictate the rules.

A savvy member of the peanut gallery will likely say witty things like "didya forget where the 'off' button was?" or "just don't watch..."
Yeah, but it's everywhere. And the point is that it's growing worse than any perceived pollution that one could conjure. Internet banners, commercials, radio spots, billboards. All wealthy entities, be they in media, oil, or banking, know they can progressively get away with more and more every year or so, provided that it's snuck under the radar of the supposed outspoken public. It's easy to advocate total withdrawal from the world and not use oil, power, or the media, but it's very tough to do that. I personally still use oil and watch the television, but I do purposely avoid products pitched by stupid commercials (unfortunately not including utilities), and for now, that's a start.


ellie said...

Well said. That's why I TiVo most shows nowadays and just watch them later. At least it makes me feel like I am actually watching more of the program than commercials. Even with that I wish I could skip the commercials entirely rather than just fast-forward through them. Watching television sure isn't as enjoyable it used to be.

Anonymous said...

I'm 100% with ya on this. The only escape drom the damned things is watching a movie on "certain" channels.
This is NOT what we pay for. I know I'm dreaming but if these companies would cut their ad budgets in half, they could charge less and make up the diff. with the increased sales! Then the commercials would still be too many for me.
They don't have to worry when I want a specific product, I will find it!
Let us watch in peace!


ellie said...

Recalling early MTV days of all day and night video programming. Music and television as it should be. The year 1981 -- seems like so long ago.

The Vapid Voice said...

Yes to all. Good points. With the influx of web banners and related advertising, one would think that the need for advertising "lust" on television would decrease. I first had cable in 1982, and the point of it was to pay for channels and avoid commercials. Mostly, that was the case. Channels like CNN, Food Network, ESPN, etc, charge cable and satellite providers for the right to carry their precious signal, and that cost is passed down to us. Why? Why not, as they think. And yes, MTV, in 1982, just showed videos and occasional promo spots for a band's tour or album. Now cable channels know that broadcast TV watchers are in the minority, and they can do as they please.