prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for January, 2012

Breaking Through the Clutter of Superbowl Spots

Posted by prof e on January 28, 2012

It’s nearly Superbowl time again, and of course America is all excited about….the TV spots. The TV event that year-in and year-out pulls the largest audience is not just about football. Superbowl spots are sometimes the only reason people tune in to watch two teams–often hated teams, e.g. the Patriots–fight it out on the field. Watching advertisers fight it out for our attention in between the gridiron action can be quite the spectacle.

Every year, it seems, some advertiser pushes the limits of broadcast decency (as determined by the FCC) and the host TV network has to decide whether to reject that ad from airing. Of course rejection has, in itself, become a strategy for some advertisers. For example GoDaddy.com has made a TV advertising career from ads rejected by the network. GoDaddy is happy to direct curious viewers to the “banned” ad on the internet where decency regulations do not apply. Other advertisers have also pushed the limits of sexual images or innuendo to generate “buzz” and attention. PETA submitted an ad in 2009 that was rejected for sexual situations involving vegetables and ManCrunch, a website for gay dating, was rejected in 2010.

But the controversies are not always about sex. Last year CBS finally approved and aired a spot by conservative religious organization Focus on the Family (located just up the road in Colorado Springs). The spot featured Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother who decided, against her doctor’s advice, to continue her risky pregnancy. The pro-life spot was opposed by a national coalition of women’s groups. In response to the controversy, Tim Tebow was quoted by the Huffington Post as saying,

“I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe,” Tebow said. “I’ve always been very convicted of it (his views on abortion) because that’s the reason I’m here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it.”

The question for CBS was whether “issue ads” were appropriate for a TV event that has the broadest possible audience, in terms of demographics, of any TV broadcast. CBS had been criticized before for not airing an ad that they deemed to be a “contentious advocacy ad.”

This debate over what is and is not appropriate for a national TV audience is not going away. But one thing is for certain. Regardless of the network and their policies, advertisers will position themselves to benefit from the buzz that their edgy spots generate…either by being aired or by being banned.

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Posted in advertising, new media, tv | 29 Comments »

Think Twice about SOPA and PIPA

Posted by prof e on January 18, 2012

If you plan to work in the media industries as a professional content creator, you need to pay close attention to the current debate over SOPA and PIPA. The two bills being debated in congress are designed, with substantial input from lobbyists representing “old media” interests, to shut down global websites that profit from the illegal distribution of copyrighted material: music, films and TV shows primarily. The issue is being framed by internet and new media companies (largely located in Silicon Valley) as a battle for internet freedom of expression and the rights of end users. Several major internet sites have gone black today or have modified their home page to express solidarity with the protest movement. But what about the rights of individuals and companies (largely located in NY & LA) that create media content?

Much of the early discussion that I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter has bought into the new media companies’ arguments that this attempt to curtail copyright infringement will stifle creativity and growth on the internet. Others argue that the regulatory oversight will amount to censorship of creative expression. This is completely understandable from the perspective of those who are end users of content rather than creators. For the average consumer, more access to free content seems like a good thing. However, if you’re thinking that you’d like to work in the media industry as a content creator, you might want to consider what the future holds for you if creativity is not rewarded and protected.

Copyright laws exist to protect intellectual property and to reward the creative community for their investment of time and resources in the creative development process. Music, video and film content does not create itself, and those responsible for its creation and distribution deserve legal protection from those who would like to acquire, redistribute, or aggregate that content for their own personal or corporate benefit.

Now, while it may be clear that I am in favor of reasonable protection for copyright holders, I am not convinced that SOPA and PIPA are well-designed legislative tools to accomplish that goal. The video below points out some of the weaknesses of these bills and raises serious questions about their practical application.

So, what do you think about SOPA and PIPA? Bad idea? Good idea? Good idea poorly executed?

Posted in 1st amendment, interactive media, media industry, new media, politics, regulation, social media, websites | 8 Comments »

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Broadcast Indecency

Posted by prof e on January 15, 2012

Broadcast radio and TV have long been the most heavily regulated media when it comes to sex, violence, coarse language, and assorted unsavory behavior. Between the hours of 6am and 10pm, when children are most likely to be in the audience, broadcasters have had to be careful to not step over the fine, and sometimes shifting, line that separates decent from indecent expression. Unlike cable TV and satellite radio, broadcast programming has had to toe the line to avoid letter-writing campaigns and FCC fines. The difference has been explained by the fact that broadcasters use public airwaves to distribute their programs to every home and receiver in a given broadcast region. Listeners and viewers don’t have to subscribe to broadcast radio and TV, it just appears when they turn on their radio or TV.

But that distinction is, according to critics, becoming irrelevant as more and more of us rely on alternative technologies to receive our audio and video programming. Cable TV and satellite and web radio and TV now reach millions of homes and viewers often don’t know, or don’t care, if the channel they have selected originated over-the-air or came by way of some other distribution technology. And increasingly broadcasters feel like they are unable to compete when customers can choose from unregulated content channels just a click away. Nearly everyone recognizes that time have changed.  Even Justice Samuel Alito Jr. was quoted this week as saying, “Broadcast TV is living on borrowed time. It is not going to be long before it goes the way of vinyl records and eight-track tapes.”

However, those in favor of maintaining stricter standards for broadcast programming argue that media consumers need a safe haven and a place where they can find some relief from nudity, profanity, and graphic violence. The past decade has seen some push-back. The Jackson-Timberlake Superbowl halftime debacle, partial nudity on NYPD Blue, and fleeting profanity in awards ceremony acceptance speeches resulted in a public outcry that was soon followed by stepped-up FCC enforcement. Millions of dollars in fines were levied and have been working through the courts as broadcasters appeal lower court decisions.

Now the US Supreme Court is trying to settle the question–does the FCC have the right to enforce laws that prohibit indecent content between 6am and 10pm on broadcast media? Before they can answer that question they may have to agree on a definition of indecent content, and that won’t be easy. George Carlin’s infamous monologue “Seven Dirty Words” is a start, but not exhaustive. And of course context is important. Dropping an F-bomb in the middle of a sitcom is one thing…hearing it from the mouth of a marine in the film Saving Private Ryan is another matter.

In a few months we’ll know what the Supreme Court has decided. In the mean time, go ahead and Google “broadcast indecency” and read a few articles and essays on both sides of the issue before you make up your mind.

Posted in 1st amendment, regulation, tv | 24 Comments »