Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Commercial Television Woes

   When I was a kid, back before the turn of the century, we watched  old-fashioned television. I remember the first television that our family owned. It was the size of a large hard-sided suitcase with a round screen about 10' in diameter. Black and white pictures only!

   Television (TV) programs were limited since we only had three channels: ABC, NBC and CBS. To make matters even more inconvenient, in order to change channels you actually had to get out of your chair, walk to the TV and turn a knob - BY HAND! There were no remote control units back then. If you wanted to be a couch potato you were out of luck. To watch TV, you actually had to MOVE! I know, I know. Hard to imagine!

   Back then, like today TV had commercials. Back then, unlike today the commercials were limited to a one minute interruption of the program. A few years later that minute was lengthened to 90 seconds (1 1/2 minutes). It seemed like forever when you were watching The Lone Ranger! 

   Fast forward to modern times: We see commercial breaks lasting up to eight minutes or more in length. This is long enough that we sometimes forget what programs we were watching or what the story line was. The programmers know this and will, on some programs, replay the last 10 seconds of the show prior to the commercial break in order to remind you of the storyline. Nice of them!

   I never paid much attention to this turn of events since it happened over the course of so many years and was so gradual that before we knew it, it seemed that we were watching more commercials than the program that we tuned in to watch.

   My wife and I have hosted several foreign exchange students. One was a boy from Hanover, Germany. When he first watched American TV he was absolutely beside himself over the commercials.
   "How can you watch TV like this?" he asked.
   "Like what?" we replied, totally unaware of the problem.
   "Why do they interrupt the programs like that?" he asked. We had no reply. 
   "To sell stuff, I suppose." we finally said, still unsure of the problem.

   He (J.P.) explained that in most of Europe, the commercials come before and after the program and that the actual program is un-interrupted by commercials. This way you can actually enjoy the program and watch the commercials or not - your choice.

   What a concept! No longer would we have to endure the onslaught of toilet bowl cleaners and Trojan Man ads! No more commercials about adult diapers and anti-depression drugs! No more attention deficit disorder due to commercials derailing our trains of thought!

   How then would the advertisers ever sell products if we had the option to not watch commercials? Apparently the Europeans have no problems with this. Products still fly off their shelves, European people still consume stuff.

   In our home commercials are seldom an issue. Most of the time we just hit he mute button on the remote and take the opportunity to use the bathroom, grab a snack or even occasionally talk to one another.

   We still buy stuff that we see advertised on the TV. This I know because I take out far more trash than I bring into the house in the form of purchased goods. I have never been able to explain this fact to myself in any satisfactory manner. It's a mystery!.

   When satellite TV was first introduced it was advertised as "non-commercial TV". This quickly changed when it became apparent that money was to be made through the use of commercials on the new satellite systems.

   We have to ask ourselves how far this will go? When will we get to the turning point: when we are watching more commercials than programming? At this time we average eight minutes of commercials for every ten minutes of programming. We're almost there. Before too long, TV listings will list the commercials to be seen sadly interrupted by the 6 o'clock news and Jerry Springer.

The Geezer loves the mute button!

1 comment:

  1. Makes me think about "Max Headroom" - if you have never watched the series (as opposed to the movie) it was wonderful. They had "Blipverts" - high speed subliminal commercials that pushed so many commercials into your brain at such a fast pace that people were exploding. I can see it happening!

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