prof. e.

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

Archive for January, 2015

Cord Cutters Gaining Options

Posted by prof e on January 31, 2015

apple-tv-streamThe cable and satellite TV industry is beginning to face the inevitable. With broadband internet widely available on multiple screens, TV viewing options are morphing from the traditional fixed time and space (appointment TV in your living room) to flexible viewing (anytime, anywhere). Having resisted a la cart pricing for many years, cable and satellite TV providers are slowly coming to terms with the future…and hoping that they haven’t waiting too long to become viable players in a future where content is packaged by the buyer–not the seller.

In the past if you wanted access to broadcast and cable network programming you had, at most, only a few options. Depending on where you lived you could subscribe to cable (basic and tiered packages at prices ranging from $50-$100+ per month), satellite (pretty much the same deal but with a dish instead of a wire), or, in some markets, a variation known as wireless cable. Or, (see my earlier post), you might consider OTA (Over The Air) broadcast TV for only the cost of an antenna!

Most of these “packages” were available directly from the provider or bundled with your phone and/or internet service. Telecom and cable providers rushed to create packages of video, voice and data (i.e. television, telephone and internet) and the result was often a monthly bill between $100-$200.

But Millennials have been slow to buy in to these marketing plans. Tech savvy and often financially squeezed, they have looked for other, (read, less expensive) alternatives. These alternatives still required internet access or a data plan on their phones…but landline phones and cable/satellite TV were for older folks, e.g., their parents, and seemed redundant at best. With so many media options literally at their fingertips, younger consumers found that a mix of YouTube (seriously?, you need a link for YouTube?), Hulu, and Netflix provides a wealth of “television” programming without the sticker shock.

The problem is that, up until recently, live sports were seldom available online (unless you wanted to watch a choppy stream from some former Soviet-bloc website). But DiSH TV’s Sling TV (their slogan is Take Back TV), will soon be offering a basic package available for $20/month that will include ESPN, ESPN2, Disney Channel and CNN along with a handful of other popular networks. All you need is a smart TV or one of several streaming devices (e.g., Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast) and you’re in business. Or just sign up and watch on your computer, tablet or phone. In either case there is no long-term contract to sign. However, if you need your DVR’s time-shifting capability, or your weekly fix of Mad Men or The Walking Dead, Sling TV may not be for you. But others may find that it’s time to Take Back TV!

One other significant development is that cable networks and program providers are beginning to offer stand-alone streaming packages. In addition to deals announced last year by HBO, Showtime, and CBS, you can now subscribe to Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and Sesame Street via Google’s Chromecast service, and the necessary hardware will only set you back a one-time fee of $35.

As you can see it will be fairly easy to cobble together some sort of TV programming package from a variety of sources to build a customized set of choices–and probably for a good bit less than you’d pay for a cable or satellite package.


Posted in media industry, new media, tv | Leave a Comment »

RIP Peggy Charren

Posted by prof e on January 22, 2015

PEGGYCHARRENA powerful advocates for children’s television died today. Peggy Charren, founder of Action for Children’s Television (ACT), passed away after a long life of advocacy for quality TV programming for children. Dismayed by the rampant violence and commercialism that marred children’s programming in the ’60 and ’70s, Charren became a crusader and reformer. Her steadfast devotion to the cause led to the Children’s Television Act which was passed into law in 1990. The legislation limited the amount of commercial content in children’s TV programming and required stations to show evidence of the educational value of its programming.

According to an article in the Boston Globe, Charren’s group seized upon “one tiny clause in the 1934 Federal Communications Act that required broadcasters using the public airwaves to serve the public interest if they wanted to keep their licenses. Ms. Charren’s group, which grew to 20,000 members, insisted that federal authorities and network executives take that mandate seriously.”

Current FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was quoted as saying,

Parents across America owe a debt of gratitude to Peggy, who single-handedly turned the vast wasteland that was children’s television programming in the 1960s and 1970s into the plethora of educational, informational and entertaining programming families enjoy today.

Peggy Charren was recipient of a Peabody award, an Emmy award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.

Posted in media effects, regulation, tv | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Posted by prof e on January 8, 2015

Newspaper headlines this morning provide another grim reminder that terrorism by Islamic extremists is often directed at media outlets and media professionals who dare to poke them in the eye. What constitutes a “poke in the eye” is partly the issue. In this particular case, employees of a satirical magazine that caricatured the Prophet Muhammad were executed in a military-style attack by gunmen with possible links to al-Qaida.

It may be difficult for Westerners to understand how a religious insult escalates to this level of hatred and violence, but we certainly have no shortage of examples. You may remember the Benghazi attack that resulted in the death of our ambassador to Libya and two of his security detail. That attack, and widespread rioting in the Middle East, was blamed on the YouTube release of a controversial movie produced in the US. In 2005 a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the prophet leading to widespread riots and  violence in Muslim countries. And the year before, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered for his film Submission, which took a critical look at the treatment of women in Muslim culture.

Adding insult to injury, a guest oped in today’s edition of USA Today, by radical Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary, suggests that the French newspaper had it coming and blamed the victims for their own fate.

The Social Responsibility model of the press, and the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution, call for a very different response to speech that may offend.

According to an editorial published in today’s Pueblo Chieftain,

It is both a fundamental right and a sacred duty of newspapers to consider and publish all opinions and angles of a news story, including those that are unpopular with certain readers. Any attack on this right is an attack on the very foundation of a free press.

Unfortunately this story, like life itself, it’s a bit more complicated than first appears. Journalism, the kind the 1st Amendment was designed to protect, is morphing into something that might be unrecognizable to our founding fathers. Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine that was attacked today, should not be compared to Time magazine, The Guardian, or Le Monde. Don’t get me wrong, the actions of the radical terrorists is inexcusable…it was brutal, repugnant, and evil, and I am in no way offering a defense of their actions. But I’m also not ignoring the fact that news organizations (and pseudo-news organizations) are increasingly engaging in activities that are not entirely defensible under the old rules of engagement.

Posted in 1st amendment, global media, journalism | 1 Comment »