Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Media in the Greater LA area...

(also August 28, 2007)

I just remembered something I wanted to post, but didn't want to just blindly tag to the back of my last post. It was jogged to mind when I was sitting here reading people's email posts, and also happycube's most recent post about some of his friends in Isla Vista.

Los Angeles is the media capital of the Known World. Life is so mediated here it's not funny. That living by media thing we do so well spills over to places like the Central Coast and San Diego and so forth. I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of a media census.

A few of my tent-city neighbors have either XM or Sirius. Both of them are going to be one big satellite radio presence, or perhaps not, depending on whether we come out of this crisis or not. We've noticed that the channel selection is shrinking for both services. It is as if they were strapped for personnel, power, or both.

Much was made of the fact that Fox and CBS technically have two owned-and-operated TV stations in this market. No more, folks. Fox has closed down Channel 13, KCOP, and terminated the failing "My Network" experiment in Telenovelas for gabachos. CBS has moved the programming that was on KCAL Channel 9 to a sideband channel of KCBS' digital programming, and also taken Channel 9 off the air. The argument in both cases is the need for power: the cost of running TV transmitters is astronomical in normal situations but crippling now. Running a sideband channel on a digital signal does not affect the need for transmission power. It's all bits, whether pumped out at 480p or 1080p. However, 480p allows for multiple sideband channels.

The cable and Direct Broadcast Satellite companies still run KCAL programming as a separate channel, because now they are getting a wee bit starved for programming. Cable and DBS TV is showing the same sort of diminuition of choice as satellite radio is, as marginal channels die off and are not replaced. I have been seeing more DBS than anything because many of the RV-ers who are encamped here have either Dish or DirecTV. Cable at CoH is a subset of what comes in locally from the local cable service provider, so there is no way of gauging the shakeup on cable. I only know from second hand sources that the same process is going on with the coaxial side of things.

Which will be the first of the big broadcast networks to fall? Everyone is hurting. The stock market is well-forked. However, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and the CW are still soldiering on. Prime Time is going to suffer by the inability of Big Media to generate Prime Time-quality content. April 30th came just as the studios were ramping up production on the 2007-2008 TV season. Sorry, people, many of the shows you love will be history. Those cliffhangers you were teased with in May will not be resolved "for the duration." Cheapness is King now. Lots of news magazines and reality shows. It's what was expected when the WGA strike was looming, but now it's because the networks can't afford production values anymore.

Movies: what movies? Basically movie theatres bit the big one almost from the beginning of the crisis. There is no more distribution of prints, whether they are on film reels or on hard drives. Digital or film, projectors take huge amounts of power to run. If you blow a bulb, the replacements are very hard to come by regardless of which medium you are running. In the off chance movie theatres are operating, they are running movies from late May at the latest. If you like Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, then you can watch it 'til the cows come home if your Cineplex is still up and running. However, I will lay you odds it's not.

Remeber I was belly-aching about missing Comic-Con? Well, it was a bust. Because of the basic collapse of Big Media and the sudden mobility crisis, guests weren't there, panels were cancelled, exhibitors didn't show, etc. etc. etc. Jim gave me the lowdown about it all. "Like a barbecue where someone forgot to buy the meat" was the Texas-flavored turn of phrase he used to describe it.

The collapse of Big Media and the surprising robustness of the Internet has basically changed the game with regard to the cat-and-mouse Big Media vs. Copyright Infringement fracas. The RIAA and the MPAA have basically had their enforcement shut down completely by their lack of funds to continue. There has been an explosion of traffic in filesharing. Bit Torrent is the weapon of choice, and countermeasures against remaining filtration means the Internet is the Wild West once again.

With the end of credit cards except for debit and prepaid cards, however, eCommerce is dying a death of a thousand cuts. iTunes shuttered about two weeks ago. If you go to the iTunes site, you find a QuickTime message from Steve Jobs, personally thanking the customers and hoping you will patronize a re-launched iTunes "when conditions change."

Basically the rise in free filesharing is being fueled by a lot of people wanting their iTunes fix but unable to use it. Oh yeah: Apple is in the weird position of having to distribute DVD Jon's program to strip protected AAC files of their protection. People want to be able to access the music they've paid for, and with the shutdown of the iTunes infrastructure the music (and movies, let us not forget) will be inaccessible forever. However, the copy-protection defeating program doesn't work on movies. Apple is now pleading with the Open Source community for help in defeating its own copy protection. "What a burn," as we used to say on the playground.

Oh yeah: broadcast radio. The big companies like ClearChannel and Infinity/CBS are gleefully shedding stations. ClearChannel ended all pretense of keeping Progressive Talk 1150 on the air, but KFI is still beaming its 50,000 watt monster signal and its right-wing "hot talkers" all over Creation. Small radio stations are dying because keeping the transmitters running is just too costly. However, pirate radio is rising. Little radio stations are popping up, and the FCC can't shut them down. Again, the industry is a hamstrung giant, or to use Robert Fripp's longtime metaphor, they are dinosaurs dying while small, mobile and intelligent mammals thrive.

Maybe there's some good coming of all this. A couple of my Psych professors would be thrilled to see me take such a stance.


Douglas said...


shootingstars123 said...

roflmao doug you loser =P xD

Unknown said...

You sir, dun goofed. All of your statements are incorrect.