Why does television have no substance nowadays?
By: David McDonald
Times are changing, and our various forms of entertainment are changing too, but this doesn’t mean for the better. In the long run, television hasn’t changed nearly as much as other forms of entertainment have, (movies, music) but it does share the same negative stigma as they do; Nearly all forms of modern day entertainment have been dumbed down in order to decrease the cost of production and increase the amount of people who will consume the idea.
This has been happening for a while now, and it is exactly why myself, along with millions of individuals have stopped watching TV altogether (along with the negative health complications that come with watching four hours of TV a day).
So why has the quality of TV programs fallen so far?
Most television networks have been purchased by six media giants. These companies control 90% of what you see, hear, and read in America (which affects Canada too) and it has dramatically decreased the substance of many well-known stations because these companies are only after one thing: profit.
Here are the six companies that control the media:
With only six companies controlling 90% of what you see on TV, it really limits the viewer experience. If you are a regular television viewer, you are just putting money into the pockets of these elite corporations.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know why this has happened. When companies get larger they acquire other companies to decrease competition. Take a look at the graphic above that shows how quickly 50 companies became 6 companies since 1983. It has effectively gotten rid of any real competition within the TV market, and in turn, makes producing shows much cheaper and more profitable for these six companies.
Take a look at the graphic to the left, which perfectly demonstrates everything that is wrong with the media in North America. As time goes by, the big six could dwindle down to only a few corporations that will have a near monopoly over the industry. This in turn, means that they can produce whatever they want without any consequences as long as it isn’t legal.
This goes far beyond which soap operas or sports programs you watch. This near monopoly has gotten a firm grip on the news coverage across America and even in Canada. This means people are being shown what the big six chooses to show you. They may only show a fraction of what the real story is in order to benefit their own interests. For example, if a black or hispanic person gets murdered by police, the media may tell you that the victim possessed a firearm when in fact, they did not.
This is exactly what we saw with the Alton Sterling case, luckily for the public, the internet is providing a true news source that covers every detail of cases like this, leaving no room for questions (at least if it is from the right source).
If you’re surprised by any of this, maybe you should do a little bit of reflecting and ask yourself if what you have recently seen on mainstream news networks is actually the truth. Because chances are, it is only a fraction of the truth.
The above picture is what you will likely see from a mainstream news network, while the left is what they rarely show.
They don’t want the public to know how grave the danger or threat really is. Why? Because if everyone was aware of how messed up some things are, they would spend less time watching TV, and more time trying to make a difference!
This is just one example of many and believe me I could go on for days on how the media underrepresents certain religions, ethnicities, and groups, but I feel like you’re already aware of this, so I’m going to move on.
Networks that have changed for the worse
They aren’t called ‘The Learning Channel’ for nothing. Well, I actually haven’t learned anything from watching this network, other than how it’s bad to be addicted to eating cleaning products. The Learning Channel was once about learning – like, in the academic sense. Blocks such as “Ready Set Learn” and “Cable in the Classroom” were early staples that pioneered the medium of television’s potential as a teaching aid.
Obviously, this didn’t catch on, because television has always been about being dumb. After the non-profit organization that owned TLC went bankrupt in 1991, the Discovery Channel snatched them up and started slowly pushing them towards less informative, more sensationalist content.
Speaking of the Discovery channel, what ever happened to their informative shows such as: Planet Earth, Curiosity, Man Vs. Wild and How the Universe Works? This network has quickly gone to one of the more informative cable channels to one of the more mindlessly entertaining ones. Today, their top shows are: Naked and Afraid, Alaskan Bush People, Gold Rush Alaska, and Yukon Men. The network boasts more reality TV shows about greasy truckers in the arctic drilling for gold then shows that have any educational value at all. I’m not sure viewers of this channel will ‘discover’ anything new from watching these sensationalized shows.
Remember when the History channel actually aired programs that taught history? Since those days, the network has changed dramatically to suit the market. Their top shows in 2016 are: Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, Top Gear, Pawn Stars, and Ancient Aliens. The only historical show there is about aliens, which of course, can’t even be proven! If I was to pick one network that has chosen the path of sensationalized television over meaningful content I would pick the history channel. You used to learn about human history (wars, art, nations, continents) but now you can only see dramatized reality TV shows.
My take on all of this
I understand the logistics of why TV has been dumbed down so much, but that doesn’t mean I’m not extremely disappointed in the path that’s been taken.
The networks I listed above all have a few things in common; they all used to teach you something valuable, and they all had to throw away what got them credibility in the first place in order to remain profitable.
With all of the sensationalized ‘crap’ (as I’m going to label it) out there on the networks, people are much more likely to watch dangerous crab fishing than the history of World War I, and it’s unfortunate.
The fact of the matter is this; people aren’t watching TV to learn something, they are watching TV to be passively entertained. They don’t want their minds working after they’ve just had a long day at school/work, and TV networks are catering to this.
However, there are still many people who want to watch TV and gain something from it. There are still stay at home moms, retired people with nothing to do, teenagers staying home from school to smoke weed and learn about ancient aliens. But they can’t do that from their TV’s anymore because there are barely any stations out there with any meaningful content, and the ones that are worth the while require a subscription.
What needs to change
In a perfect world, 90% of the media would not be controlled by a mere 6 companies, and there would not be a near monopoly on television. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and to demand these things is not only uneconomical, but it goes against what TV is all about: passive entertainment.
I don’t think television is going to change in terms of promoting educational programs instead of crap. But if I were President/Prime Minister, I would demand that at least three cable channels be funded by the government that teach people something valuable.
Maybe one channel for history, one channel for business/politics, and one channel for nature and how to preserve our planet.
I think people generally want to watch good content that isn’t soap operas and sports every now and then, and I think this educational content should be widely available.
But clearly this isn’t going to happen anytime soon so for the meantime, so if you’re looking for meaningful entertainment that can actually educate you and add value to your life, then it’s in your own hands to find it.
Thanks for reading!