Clicked Off

Ted Koppel, one of the last eminences of the old broadcast news era, weighed in some days ago on the never-ending debate about how things just aren’t as august as they used to be (whenever that was) when it comes to informing the American people (instead of just yelling at them).

Koppel targeted Fox News and MSNBC, comparing them to bling-addled boxers in the big media ring, glaring at each other from their respective neutral corners, and then raining rhetorical spitballs, as they move, night after night, to the center of the big canvas:  American cable television.

Typically, there’s been a lot of reaction.

Sssssnnnnnnorrrrrrrre !!!

Koppel furrowed mightily about the underlying threat to the Republic if trends (in place and quite profitable for a helluva long time, thanks) continued, led by O’Reilly/Olbermann, Beck/Maher, Limbaugh/Stewart food fights.

BUT !!!!

It may be The Big Media Story is way ahead of Ted and all these other clowns, at least in terms of the dire state of cable itself.

From the Financial Times, 11/18/10:

“The number of people subscribing to US cable television services has suffered its biggest decline in 30 years as younger, tech-savvy viewers lead an exodus to web-based operations, such as Hulu and Netflix.” *

  • Total number of subscribers to cable and satellite in the third quarter:  down by 119,000
  • Compared to gain of 346,000 in the third quarter of 2009
  • Net falloff in subscribers in the third quarter of 2010:  741,000

“The figures suggest that ‘cord-cutting’ – one of the pay-TV industry’s biggest fears – is becoming a reality as viewers drift to web-based platforms.”

  • Online subscription services now priced at $7.99 per month (Hulu and Netlfix)
  • Hulu’s revenue up over $130 million this year compared to last (Hulu owned jointly by News Corp., Disney, and NBC Universal)

“Research from The Diffusion Group, a technology research company, found that more than a third of iPad users were likely to cancel their pay-TV subscriptions in the next six months.”

* Source:  SNL Kagan


  1. dirigo says:

    I read the news today, oh boy: That English rock band is on iTunes.

  2. FunnyDiva says:

    so, what’s Koppel’s ideal model? He said/she said mush?
    Because clearly content doesn’t matter to him, only “tone”, or he wouldn’t be playing the false equivalence “oh, there’s extremes on both sides” game. Well, yes, there are extremes on both sides. It’s just that they’re demonstrably a lot more outrageous and fact-free on one particular side!


    What would these people have said about Edward R Murrow when he was exposing McCarthy’s witch hunts for what they were?!



    • dirigo says:

      Murrow had singular power in his day, and many who were opposed to his type of reporting are the same types who pretend to be informing the mass audience today.

      At the time, there was a line of argument that such power as Murrow wielded would never be granted so fully to anyone else. With that, the networks pulled their punches on “hard news.”

      CBS played games with Murrow until he left to join the Kennedy administration, just as they played games with others who tried to emulate him, such as, for better or worse, Dan Rather.

      Murrow worked for Voice of America, where no one in this country would hear him; and Rather works for an internet news outfit where his audience may come in under 500,000, if that.

      Out to pasture.

      • FunnyDiva says:

        Thank you for the thoughtful reply!

        I have a friend who actually went to J-school and really admires Murrow–but doesn’t think Olbermann is a “real journalist” (“he’s soooooo partisan!”). But, then, her idea of what blogging is all about is at least 15 years out-of-date as well.

        I’d add Bill Moyers to the ‘out to pasture’ list, too. Also to the list of well-spoken interviewers who could keep things pointedly factual without being (what is now called) shrill.

        • dirigo says:

          You bet.

          I was in broadcast news, as well as some print, and am familiar with some of the history and trends. I got out some time ago. No regrets, although I still have strong feelings about quality journalism. Things have gone off the deep end and are very confused, and the confusion is always aggravated by commercial and political pressures. Nothing new here. It’s more troubling now since the media world, with the technology, shows so much promise. Yet, all we get is a racket, in business terms and intellectually.

          Moyers is a cut above as well.

          There’s an interesting piece about where journalism may be going. If you can access it, it’s by Thomas Frank at Harper’s. Interesting but sad, since he writes about online “opportunities” where editors and reporters who submit are basically paid grocery money for 300 word pieces.

          I can write for nothing here, and that ain’t bad, given Hag’s hospitality and wit. But Frank presents a bleak picture for people who may want to write on the internet and be paid a living wage.

          Ho hum …

          • FunnyDiva says:

            Ho hum indeed.

            I used to earn grocery money editing scienc-y manuscripts by non-native writers for publication in English Language journals. On bad days, I think about begging for that job back. Actually, it was worthwhile work and I enjoyed it. Just by way of sayin’ I hear ya–because rank-n-file scientists aren’t any better compensated than writers.

            But you say that “things are very confusing” in your former field. What kinds of issues are so confusing? As opposed to we know what the actual answers are to the “Why…?” questions but just hate that things are that way. I’d have thought that there’s a journalistic equivalent to “scientific method” that doesn’t actually change very much–although its earning-power has declined drastically.

            BTW, if you need any other venues for your online efforts, firedoglake still has their diary capability. Lots of great stuff over there. (apologies if you’re already there and I’ve just forgotten…)

          • dirigo says:


            Well, using the Murrow benchmark, there was a time and a place – and I’m familiar with such an environment – where observing the everyday, including politics, and reporting the facts was the basic standard of journalism.

            The structure wasn’t perfect, but I learned to work in it and liked it, until it was penetrated by managers and consultants who didn’t respect it. After awhile it was hijacked by ratings and entertainment values.

            Broadcast news in this country was, briefly as it turns out, a workable if awkward balance between entertainment and journalism, but the balance was lost; and the result is, well, confusion, in terms of how the public gets information it can rely on to assess political performance and government policy.

            One thing mentioned fairly frequently is the abolition of the fairness doctrine in broadcasting, which, arguably, enforced balance. But ideologues who supported the doctrine’s demise still claim it was an impediment to truly free expression in the marketplace. Well, was it? Are things more clear now?

            Can you hear me now?

            You say you wrote, or edited, stuff written by non-English writers for science mags. Interesting. It’s certainly too much to ask of journalism that it bear the full weight of empirical writing on the level of scientific texts. But I’ve always believed that news can and should be offered in as bullet-proof a style as is possible, given the daily hurly-burly in which it is produced. First draft of history and all that.

            When I did it and felt inspired by it, that is how I approached the news I produced. I’d prefer that to most of the crap out there, and with online choices that’s what I look for.

            Emerson I think spoke about writing so good, so eloquent, it requires no rebuttal.

            That’s a tall order for the daily news, but it’s a worthy goal, especially if the idea is to produce stuff which will withstand constant political taint and demagoguery.

          • dirigo says:

            Comment on Koppel and background on the real profitability of network news over the years.


  3. FunnyDiva says:

    Dear Cable Monopolies:
    It might help your business if you had actual competition and didn’t gouge your customers for every cent you think you can get!

    A. Former Customer.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I’m with you on that one, FD, and I see it all around me. Here we can choose from Comcast, Comcast, or Comcast, for the same overpriced service and slippery fine print. The only other choice, which I use, is Qwest for internet and land line, which is slower but cheaper, and also a monopoly which “partners” with Verizon for cell phones. Remember when we had antitrust laws? Me neither.

      • FunnyDiva says:

        PAH! I live in Greater Seattle, and Qwest doesn’t offer internet where I am. Hasn’t in the 5 years I’ve lived here. It’s always “oh, check back, I’m sure it won’t be long.” Yeah, right.

        I really have to get off my duff and see if I can’t afford to go strictly to ClearWire and CredoMobile

        Antitrust laws? I vaguely remember when those used to be applied. I certainly remember the breakup of AT&T.

        • dirigo says:

          Didn’t the earliest drafts concerning anti-trust appear in the preambles to the very first pre-nup agreements, back in the days of Melvin Belli?

          • FunnyDiva says:

            Ooooh! I remember Belvin Belli, too!
            Though I was too young to understand that he was anything but a joke to my terminally RW parents…

            I used to be a Silicon Valley Girl!

  4. dirigo says:

    Now this is what I call news: just the facts.