Category: TV

News war


Watch it online.

FRONTLINE: news war: introduction | PBS:

Bergman traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration’s attacks on the media and the post-Watergate popularity of the press to new obstacles presented by the war on terror and changing economics in the media business and the Internet. The topic has special resonance for Bergman, whose career as a journalist for FRONTLINE, The New York Times, ABC News and 60 Minutes has included reporting on the issues that are critical to the current controversies. “There has been a perfect storm brewing in the world of news,” says Bergman. “Not since the Nixon administration has there been this level of hostility leveled at news organizations. … [But] unlike the confrontations of 35 or more years ago, today’s news war sees the very economic foundations of the business shifting.”

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Watch out kids, here comes Joost


Yet another entrant into the on-line video stream. May they compost cable.

Advertising Age – Digital – Why Joost Isn’t Just Your Average ‘YouTube Killer’:

Here’s the catch: the video stream isn’t coming from Comcast or DirecTV, it’s coming from Joost, one of the latest entrants into the online video market — and a service for which the cliche “YouTube killer” has been commonly applied. But it’s more likely to become a cable-company killer. While YouTube has become a repository for Long Tail user-generated content, Joost is looking to distribute professionally created content.

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Life imitates TV torture


Yet another example of how the spectacularization of violence normalizes it:

Group: TV torture influencing real life – Yahoo! News:

Tell me where the bomb is, Bauer orders, or we’ll kill your family. Silence. The prisoner watches as a thug kicks down the chair his son is tied to and fires a gun at point-blank range. He screams but still doesn’t relent — until the gun is pointed at his second son. Having gotten what he needed, Bauer whispers that the execution was staged.

The scene from Fox’s “24” is haunting, but hardly unusual. The advocacy group Human Rights First says there’s been a startling increase in the number of torture scenes depicted on prime-time television in the post-2001 world.

Even more chilling, there are indications that real-life American interrogators in
Iraq are taking cues from what they see on television, said Jill Savitt, the group’s director of public programs.

Human Rights First recently brought a West Point commander and retired military interrogators to Hollywood for meetings with producers of “24” and ABC’s “Lost” to talk about their concerns about life imitating art.

But sometimes art imitates torture. Artist Coco Fusco is exploring the role of female interrogators in the war on terror. A few summers ago she and a group of female artists participated in a “torture camp,” which was lead by interrogation trainers. They were put into simulated POW camps, receiving the same kind of treatment that interrogators go through to understand the process of the kind of work they are embarking upon. The resulting experience became a performance piece, A Room of One’s Own: Women and Power in the New America.


Coco Fusco in A Room of One’s Own

PS: Also worth a read, Fox Show “24”: Torture on TV from Jan wiener of The Nation.

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Are ‘Baby Einsteins’ marching to war?

Marketplace: Iraq war justified? Maybe for Baby Einsteins:

By targeting babies, companies are marketing not just products but lifelong habits, hardwiring dependence on media before babies even have a chance to grow and develop the way they do it best, through hands-on creative play. And it’s through playing that children learn, among other things, skills essential to thriving in and protecting democratic society — critical thinking, initiative, problem solving and empathy.

That’s in contrast to what children learn from the more than 40 hours a week they spend with commercially-dominated media — unthinking brand loyalty, impulse buying and a belief that all the world’s a market. Corporate values embraced and pushed by the Bush administration.

During the build-up to the Iraq war, the President’s chief of staff was asked why Bush waited until September to promote the invasion. He replied, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

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Off world in the home world pt. 2




It’s always interesting when reality catches up with reality TV. Apparently it might be difficult to tell who is shooting who in Fiji these days. While the CBS reality TV series Survivor points cameras at castaways, rogue soldiers are pointing their guns at the rulers of this remote region of the South Pacific.

E! News – Survivor Lives Through Fiji Coup – Jeff Probst:

“To be shooting Survivor while in the midst of a coup is a bit surreal for all of us here in Fiji,” Probst wrote Tuesday in an email to Entertainment Weekly. “We have set up our satellite TV in the catering area [for producers and crew members only], and during dinner the entire crew watches the local news to get updates on what is happening.

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Last weekend I was at the ACME media activist conference giving a workshop on eco-media and had a chance to hang out with Mitch Altman, creator of the most awesome stocking stuffer, TV-B-Gone. This week he was also on WBAI’s “Off the Hook” (a hacktivist radio program) talking about his innovative product. Essentially, Mitch is a countercultural geek who designed a remote control that has only one function: turning off televisions. There are 150 codes programmed into it and it can pretty much turn off any TV except some of the newer, bigger flat screens. One story he tells concerns how CNN caught wind of his device and as a preventative measure encased all their airport TVs (they are the sole provider in US airports) with wood cases. Not to worry, you can point the TV-B-Gone right into the box and it will do its thing. Kudos to Mitch for forcing CNN into such countermeasures.

One can imagine that in the future it will be a crime to not watch TV, but for now it’s perfectly legal to turn them off, and people generally react positively to TVs getting zapped. I’m sure you’re like me in that it’s utterly baffling why TVs are on in public spaces when the point of being in public is to engage other human beings. The most annoying thing to happen while you are talking is having TVs catch your eye, even when you don’t want to watch them. The problem is that your brain processes the change in environment (such as scene edits which look like flashes), immediately drawing it to your attention. This is great for advertisers but has little benefit for the average person. Keeping in mind the advertising secret that once an image is put in your head you can’t take it out, you are doing a pubic service by randomly (and intentionally) turning off TVs. Continue reading

Researchers: Homes have more TVs than people

And you wonder why things in American are so strange: – Researchers: Homes have more TVs than people – Sep 22, 2006:

NEW YORK (AP) — The average American home now has more television sets than people.

That threshold was crossed within the past two years, according to Nielsen Media Research. There are 2.73 TV sets in the typical home and 2.55 people, the researchers said.

With televisions now on buses, elevators and in airport lobbies, that development may have as much to do with TV’s ubiquity as an appliance as it does conspicuous consumption. The popularity of flat-screen TVs now make it easy to put sets where they haven’t been before.

Existential “in”-action figures Lost in thought

CharlieIt has been said that if you think you are watching a show about a bunch of plane crash survivors, you are watching the wrong show. The show in question, of course, is Lost. The surprise breakout on ABC is most definitely not your average program, and the one thing that keeps me interested is my view that Lost’s island is a metaphor for the mediated reality we find ourselves in. The island’s environment, inhabited by ghosts and “the others,” is like a dream space in which objects produce their own space, similar to the acoustic-like, all encompassing ecology of media where we currently live. The plane is our civilization, crashed, destroyed, in pieces. The survivors must learn to cope with their new environment, just as we have to adjust to ours.

My thoughts on Lost is spurned by the announcement by McFarlane Toys that it will be creating action figures based on the series. As you you can see from the prototype of “Charlie,” these will most likely be the most boring action figures ever, “action” being the misnomer of the century. With Sharpie in hand, looks like Charlie is the 21 Century equivalent of Rodan’s “The Thinker.” Most funny about the press release is the promise that we can own a piece of the show’s “mythology,” as if an ennui could be molded in plastic.


McFarlane Toys’ Lost Series 1 captures six fan-favorite characters from the series’ first season. Each 6-inch Lost figure comes with a detailed base and photographic backdrop, capturing an episode-specific moment in the character’s story. In addition, each package includes a detailed prop reproduction central to the character’s story, enabling fans to “own” a piece of the show’s mythology.

“Lost – The Complete First Season” (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

“Lost – The Complete Second Season” (Touchstone / Disney)

Ain’t no TV holiday in Cambodia

TV-WeekIt’s that time of year for the international holiday for freaks, TV Turnoff Week. Sponsored by Adbusters, this has become a calling card for school librarians (yes, they are feeing the pinch) and is a good time to reflect on our addiction to media. A few questions, though. What is a TV anymore? With TiVo, V-cast telephones and Web TV it seems like TVs are very old school as a thought process. It has always been my contention that TVs are structures, not objects. When I suggested to Jerry Mander (author of Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television) that environmentalists start using media literacy, he said: “It’s a good idea, except that it makes media more interesting, so I’m against it.”
tv-smashIn a past life when I was a student at Berkeley, we used to have a TV smash party on Sproul Plaza. It was quite dangerous, actually. Did you know that tube TVs hold enough of an electrical charge to kill a human? (This is so you can fire it up on demand!) But we put on our goggles and had cathartic fun anyway. What will you do for TV turnoff week? I’ll be recording all my favorite commercials, so I won’t miss a thing anyway.

I’m lost


Poor Steven Johnson got smacked around by the so-called progressive left for claiming that media make us smarter. I haven’t read his latest tome, Everything Bad is Good for You, but I plan to because I thought his book Emergence was amazing (it examines “emergence” theory as it relates to cities, ants, brains and computers). I’ll reserve judgment until I finish the book, but already I think he says a lot more about systems than I’ve heard from any media literacy activists.

Anyhow, here is a column he wrote for the London Times on the great ABC series, Lost, one of the few shows I actually watch for fun. It’s a good introduction to many of his themes:

What’s going on? Don’t ask me, I’m lost… – Student – Times Online:

“The drama Lost has turned the conventional wisdom of American prime-time TV on its head: it’s smart, complex and many-layered. Our correspondent says it’s part of a new genre of “intelligent” television that seriously threatens cinema”