Some in the media business worried that the troubles at Nickelodeon were a warning sign that today’s digitally wired children would never grow into traditional television watchers.
“There were a lot of people who legitimately believed that it was over for kids’ television — Nick in particular and TV more broadly,” said Brian Wieser, a media analyst with Pivotal Research. “But no good evidence suggests that there was a meaningful decline in total kids’ consumption of television.”
Despite the concerns, children today are watching more television on a traditional television set than they did five years ago. Children ages 2 to 11 now spend an average of 111 hours, 47 minutes a month watching traditional television, according to Nielsen’s Cross-Platform Report for the first quarter of 2014.
That is up from the average of 108 hours, 45 minutes a month children in that age group spent watching traditional television in 2009.
This advance, of course, comes on top of the even faster rise of tablets, etc.
Television, vehicle of the national hologram and central nervous system of corporate capitalist sales efforts, might be human history’s most deadly invention. Mostly, that’s due to its slyly corrosive effects on human analytical skills. But there’s also a physical side. Today’s New York Times reports that the pace of TV set replacement has doubled in recent years, as makers have pushed flat-panel monitors. Meanwhile, “recycling” of old TVs is mainly a scam, with mountains of old sets just lying around in various places. And the toxicity of the newfangled flat screens?
Most experts say that the larger solution to the growing electronic waste problem is for technology companies to design products that last longer, use fewer toxic components and are more easily recycled. Much of the industry, however, seems to be heading in the opposite direction.
Cathode ray tubes have been largely replaced by flat panels that use fluorescent lights with highly toxic mercury in them, said Jim Puckett, director of Basel Action Network, an environmental advocacy group.
The FCC requires local tv stations to mix a bit of “educational programming” into their Saturday-morning marketing efforts. Can you spot any differences between this, which was also usefully summarized here and the PBS-aired (and now “educational” filler on commercial stations everywhere) video below from about the 8:30 mark?
Leslie Savan, TCT‘s favorite advertising critic, once wrote that, if you want to understand advertisements, one of the major principles to bear in mind is “follow the flattery.” Ego strokes are often used to build brand affection and loyalty.
Of course, as we TCTers know, marketing is a core part of the overall corporate capitalist order, and, as such, faces constant pressure to refine and extend itself.
Hence, is it any surprise that the premium on flattery is devouring more and more of the “content” (aka programming, aka “shows”) in commercial media? Content, after all, is merely secondary advertising, something that exists to attract eyeballs and eardrums to advertising/marketing (aka unintentional shopping).
Exhibit A: The new television program “Up All Night,” the plot of which is: two new, first-time parents attempt to care for their baby, with supposedly inherently hilarious results. Is it funny, or just an attempt at flattery? Judge for yourself:
Exhibit B: The new motion picture, “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” the plot of which is: a woman holds down an upper class “job,” while also trying to be a wife and mother. This one is also a load of undisguised, straight-up button-pushing. It is, in Tasha Robinson‘s apt phrase, lifestyle porn:
Such is American culture these (late) days. Hilarious, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, for those of you wondering how Hollywood movies serve as marketing vehicles, two words: product placement. “I Don’t Know How She Does It” features not one, but two Product Placement Coordinators (look under “Other Crew”). During its filming, one product placement expert described it thus:
Sarah Jessica Parker leaves her character of bad girl from New York upper class to become a London City broker. In this case she is even a mother and has to conciliate these two roles. The comedy is based on the best-seller by Allison Pearson, who will be out in February with her second novel “I think I love you”….The shootings will begin in London in January. A product placement fit for high fashion Companies, accessories, and baby products. A rare occasion for products for kids; the premises fo this movie seems to be in fact really good.
In 1961, FCC Chair Newton Minnow delivered his famous speech to the National Association of Broadcasters. In it, Minnow dared to say this to the assembled mind-fuckers:
When television is good, nothing—not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers—nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.
Of course it has. Commercial TV cannot be good. The controlling interests of its sponsors bar controversy, complexity, seriousness, and sharpness, in favor of studiously applied triviality, titillation, flattery, stereotyping, thoughtlessness, flippancy, and, most of all, strategic dishonesty.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With technology allowing nearly 24-hour media access as children and teens go about their daily lives, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically, especially among minority youth, according to a study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.
The amount of time spent with media increased by an hour and seventeen minutes a day over the past five years, from 6:21 in 2004 to 7:38 today. And because of media multitasking, the total amount of media content consumed during that period has increased from 8:33 in 2004 to 10:45 today.
And what new cultural wonders are the corporate broadcasters adding to their upcoming fall line-ups, in between the shows about doctors, cops, cops-who-are-doctors, and doctors-who-are-cops? One highly anticipated example is (and I shit you not) “‘No Ordinary Family,’ a look at a family that discovers each member has super powers.”
Now there’s something relevant and mature and high-quality for this flailing, incoherent, frustrated empire! Just what the doctor-cop-superhero-American-Idol ordered!
And behind it all, as always, is the social engineering logic of big business marketing. From a report in the latest Advertising Age:
Thursday night remains one of the most important nights of the week for advertisers, particularly movie studios looking to goose box-office results for films that open Fridays or retailers who want to draw attention to a weekend sale.
Such are the core cultural dynamics of “the land of the free,” friends.