Another talented, top-notch friend is leaving the broadcast news business at the end of the year for a more secure, and possibly a more fulfilling, position in academia. I suppose that means that there may be a job opening at a Texas TV station for somebody else, and that may also be good news. That in a nutshell sort of characterizes 2009 in communications.
Media is in flux. That’s the answer I gave in a discussion during Mass Communications Week at Texas State this fall. Media—all media—are in a state of flux. That’s good and bad news at the same time. For example: NBC’s decision to let Jay Leno have a one-hour show, five days a week right before local news is bad news for local NBC affiliates. It’s good news for other stations in the market, such as KEYE TV (CBS) because, the move forced people to sample other news at 10 O’clock. It also gave viewers an hour to watch programs that had recorded. As I said recently, however, I think that Jay is also in flux. Affiliates won’t put up with this for long.
That leads to another, larger issue. If the NBC Universal/Comcast goes through, it will be the next big step in the migration of network programming away from local TV stations. Lots of programming is already available on NBC.com and Hulu.com. It could also be the beginning of a rebirth of quality programs.
Of course, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, isn’t operating in the Austin area. Instead, we get the second largest cable company, Time Warner. It will be interesting to see if TW will work out its retransmission deal with Fox or if Fox will disappear from Time Warner January 1, 2010. Time Warner spun-away AOL this year, making their bottom line even better. Will that translate into TW being a better cable company? I doubt it.
Meantime, satellite providers Dish and Direct TV reap the benefits while AT&T’s U-Verse and Grande Cable keep building out their coverage neighborhood by neighborhood. Further, Apple wants to start up subscription TV programming over the Internet. Apple’s idea won’t replace live broadcasts like football games yet, however.
Further, the so-called “digital revolution” may actually benefit viewers more and more in the year to come if networks and cable companies continue feuding. Some stations, such as KXAN TV (NBC) still haven’t made full use of their side channel. Further, LIN TV’s KBVO TV, formerly KXAM TV in the Hill Country still cannot be seen by most in the Austin area. Until KBVO is available in Austin, the move to make it a separate station, no longer rebroadcasting KXAN, will continue to confound me.
Where radio is concerned, KGSR FM (Emmis) switched frequencies to 93.3 from 107.1. Now, the station is attempting to enhance its coverage area in Austin and improve its numbers while 107.1 has become Spanish language broadcasting.
Recognition of the growing Spanish speaking audience and culture in Austin is another change that will only expand in 2010. Many of the TV digital side channels are now devoted to Spanish programming. KEYE .2 and is also doing local news in Spanish with Fred Cantu as its anchor. Cantu started in Austin doing radio news in Spanish before moving to TV decades ago.
Many, however, for personal and professional reasons, however are leaving “the business” behind. Some are going into retirement. Some are choosing newly created opportunities in cyberspace. Some are being laid-off or, better, bought out. With the loss of these pros we, the audience, lose their perspective along with their talents.
At the same time print publications are still shutting down or cutting back on when they go to press. So far Austin seems to be escaping these sad developments, but I hate to see “Editor and Publisher” magazine go away.
In the national broadcast media this year, we’ve seen increased splintering and polarizing, and it is reflected in the Congress. Sometimes, I just want to grab some of these politicians and pundits by the face and ask them to recognize truth when they see it. The nation has been beaten down by cynicism and negativism—particularly the politics of “No”. Viewers, readers, and users of the media seem to be consuming only those thoughts, positions, and beliefs that reinforce their pre-existing notions.
Mainstream media is in flux too. ABC’s World News Tonight debuted its new main anchor with flashy and fresh opening graphics Monday, December 21st after the retirement of Charles Gibson. Diane Sawyer turned 64 December 22nd. So, one might wonder how long she will warm the chair. For the most part, meantime, the networks continue pursuit of truth, but it’s hard when there are so many voices screaming hyperbole in the marketplace of ideas. I just want to repeat, “Come, let us reason together.” As an idealist in the mid-1960s I majored in Communications believing that it would lead to peace. Call me naïve, but I still believe.
I have a sticker that says “Hope” on the back of my truck. It’s not political. It’s an ideal. We must at the interpersonal level communicate hope and turn away from those who sneer. Hope is at the foundation of any economic stimulus. Hope will help heal the hurts. Hope with love and faith can end wars.
Best hopes and wishes for us all in 2010.
© Jim McNabb, 2009