17 December 2020

TV content today


TV content today topic by Ignacio


Essay by Lawrence


I am not too well informed about the TV content of local terrestrial stations. I just don’t watch too much traditional TV. But this is me because I never relied on a single media source to inform and entertain myself. So this is why I also use other media such as radio, social media platforms and until recently did a low level of photo journalism.


The problem with TV in general and TV content in particular, is that digital technologies are much better and more efficient at moving large quantities of information to TV sets. And TV content is no longer a film, the news, a debate, but rather an investment and brands in their right with marketing strategies. The evening news programme is no longer just the news, but a 24/7 information machine that appears on your TV set, and also on social media platforms, image social media and a website that just repeats the news contents. News readers are no longer news readers but also professionals when they interview people in authority or power. Most important of all TV content is very expensive to create and requires a lot of people to be creative.


In effect TV viewing and TV content are now under a new operating model. In the past we just waited for the TV to give us a bunch of programmes and we had no choice. Today TV content is practically a matter of content on demand. If we don’t like the movie that is on a particular station we just look for another movie on another channel.  And if that is not enough we can also use the TV set to view videos from video social media. Indeed if we are not using the TV set to comfortably view certain social media content it is just a set occupying space and collecting dust.


The down side of content on demand is firstly, we have to pay for it. We have to pay for the wi-fi connection, we have to pay for subscriptions, and still need other devices to see or view content such as mobile phones, tablets and PCs. Secondly, we have to spend energy and effort to find the content we are interested. As I said, in the past we watched what was given to us, today we are hunter gatherers looking for interesting TV content. And life is not easy as a hunter gather, sometimes we are lucky but most times we are just get nowhere.


There seems to be an evolutionary movement with TV content. The medium is limited to the amount of information it can transmit. The more information the medium can transmit the more content it requires. Today it seems that the medium can transmit more information than what is available as unique content. Unfortunately we still haven’t solved the problem of repeats. In the past repeats were shown every number of months or years, today repeats can well be within a 24 or 48 hour period. The answer to repeats today is to channel hop until we find something interesting. In the past because content was scarce TV channels shut down for the night.


If we move away from the traditional TV of content push from the different channels to a content pull model from whatever source we have access to, we are then limited by the dreaded “algorithm”. Social media, which are today by far the most followed source of information and entertainment, are first and foremost for profit businesses. In effect social media are data miners and sell data packages out user based information to other businesses. It is well know that today social media companies capture a very high level of advertising dollars making them very rich and profitable at the expense of traditional media.


So, algorithms are used to channel watchable content to receptive audience who are more likely to click on advertising content than if they did not like the content (it’s all about the number of seconds the viewer spends watching a particular content). Feedback, our feedback, is very important today although outliers have always been a headache for most data managers thus these algorithms cannot cope with too much diversity in a viewer. Speaking for myself, today some 80% of the feed from a popular network social media is based on brexit because that is the only subject I interact most. But instead of showing me more content from the 20% subject they tend to repeat from the 80% content.


Unfortunately, the legal and political echo bubble of TV content also applies to social media. Content today is subject to legal and political interference not just for moral and political censorship but more for copyright and data protection. Many times we come across videos on social media not available in our country. In the case of Spain it’s because in the distant past of Spain, copyright infringement was very common and uncontrolled and some creators are afraid to show. There many other reasons why content is blocked. And even if this is not a matter of copyright other issues might conflict with the profit interests of social media platforms, for example who is a copyright holder? Of course, there are also limitations on what is available to viewers usually based on what is forbidden due to criminal indecency.


Political censorship has always been a factor in traditional TV content and today in social media. In the past political censorship was mostly to protect the ideology of the government, the dictatorship or the national patriotism; in the USA it was always to protect the American dream otherwise known as consumerism, or the Soviet with their Marxist communism otherwise known are oppression. Today censorship is more a task of protecting people from the reality of the world: wars without blood, an emaciated starving child rather than a pile of dead corpses. The less people know the less they are to be alienated by the doings of people who have their finger on the money printing machine.


In the past, information was limited and mostly inaccessible to most people, today information is available by the terabytes per seconds and includes everything there is to know. And that makes it very difficult to find the few bytes of information we need or want. Traditional TV content today as a source of information and entertainment is mostly redundant or simply a manipulative source for one ideology or another.


The challenge today is to wake up from the mesmerising effect of traditional TV media content and quickly relearn our hunter gatherer skills: spend more than five minutes searching a topic on the internet.



Best and take care



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