The purpose of TV is entertainment? education? No: the purpose of TV is the ads. How about “the purpose of TV is the news”? No. Or, if so, it doesn’t change a thing: because the purpose of news is the ads. Indeed, the news itself is all ad. The news itself is a rainbow of ads. First, superficially, most obviously, the news is sponsored. No sponsor, no TV news. So that’s ads: the sponsored part.
Ah, but the show part of the news is sponsored: by the network! The news is an ad for the network! Count how many times in any fifteen minutes network personnel identify the network by name: including when they identify each other by name.
The network is sponsored by the state. It’s the state that divies the electromagnetic spectrum and gives the divisions away. The international news is an ad for the state. Actually, all of the news is an ad for the state: while the state is an ad for the sponsors: including those friends the state gave those divisions of the spectrum to. If the network members hadn’t been friends of the state the state wouldn’t have given them the division. And if they hadn’t been friends of the state somehow anyway they become friends of the state.
(McLuhan distinguished ads that stimulate sales from ads that steep the consumer in confidence that purchases of the brand already made were wise: Cadillac owners are assured that they spent their money on the right product. Network news is an ad of both kinds simultaneously: watch NBC, be proud that it’s NBC that you jack into your brain.)
Meantime, for brief snatches, the TV shows, all chopped up, offer “real” entertainment: movies made for the commercial movie theaters, for example. But of course more and more those movies too sell ad space. But even before they did, the movies were ads: ads for basic cultural biases, ads for fashions, ads for commercial consumption even where no brand is specified. Ads for theological positions, ads for political tendencies.
Get out of here! What about the cartoons?
The cartoons are ads for basic mythic stances: democracy: and if not democracy, then for Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species bias: men are better than monkeys, monkeys are better than dragons … and nothing is as bad as snakes: unless it’s spiders.
Your attention has been sold to the highest bidder.
Uh, so isn’t there such a thing as news really?
Sure there is. When your neighbor yells that your house is on fire, that’s news. When your neighbor yells that there’s one lantern shining from the belfry, that’s also news: they’re coming by land.
2005 01 09, first at IonaArc, then K., now here.