August 8, 1997

More Commercials

Television is just one more facet of that considerable segment of our society that never had any standard but the soft buck.

Raymond Chandler

The only TV that I watch is Jeopardy and TV news. I channel surf between San Francisco channels 4, 5 and 7.

My impression is that there isn't half a smidgen's difference between the lot of them. The stories covered are identical and what they present on those stories is also virtually identical. The only differences are the personalities of the newscasters, and they were all cast in the same mold. There is a difference in the weather graphics, but that's about it.

The reason for having different news systems(CBS, NBC, ABC) is ostensibly "competition." But there really is no competition.The faces of the newscasters are different, but what they present is the same.

You might say that those stories that are covered are the major events that are occurring. Horsepucky! It is a big world and a big nation, and I can't believe that what is presented on all networks are the only things that are happening.

If nothing else, one problem is that that we are paying three times as much for the same thing. What's more, it is the same story, night after night, until the story dies a natural death. It would be interesting if it died a violent death, but it doesn't. It just dribbles away.

First it was the O.J.Simpson trial; then the second O.J. Simpson trial; then the Timothy McVeigh trial, and the Timothy McVeigh trial, and the........

Between every few stories are a number of commercials. I use my mute button and don't listen to them. I have an aversion to having my brain washed --I prefer it in its pristine dirty state. At least my brain is mine, not the advertisers.

In short, the only difference between the networks is the order in which the stories and commercials are presented, and that is changing. Some commercials are synchronized so that they appear at the same time on all networks.

But the most disturbing development is the appearance of commercials on what is euphemistically called "news." The most blatant one happens on the Channel 7 news. One segment of the local news is presented by a man called Finney. Each of his presentations is a commercial for one or more products. Who gets paid for these commercials? The one thing that you can be sure about is that someone is being paid in some way. Nothing that a TV station does comes without a price.

In virtually every newscast, both local and national, there is a commercial for something that is presented as a news story. It could be some vitamin or a new drug or a new type of Barbie doll, but, call it what you wish, it is without question a commercial.

The question is, how do these commercials get on the networks as news stories. I suspect that the answer is Public Relations(PR) people who are masters at getting their commercials presented. Whether they actually bribe people, or simply take them out to fine dinners is irrelevant. Someone, in some way, is paid off.

It won't be long before there will be one minute of news followed by 5 minutes of commercials. By that time, I will no longer be watching the TV news.

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