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Doomed from the Start

August 15th, 2005 - 10:40 pm

Reason’s Jesse Walker on Gore TV:

As I read about this top-heavy effort to rebuild something that had already emerged from the ground up, I kept thinking of the Digital Entertainment Network, a short-lived, super-expensive child of the dot-bust era. My colleague Matt Welch worked there for a few weeks in 1999 and wrote a widely circulated memoir of the experience for the Online Journalism Review; he described a dysfunctional but extremely well-compensated corporate hierarchy that kept changing its business model, touted itself as “a cross between CNN and MTV for the Internet Generation,” and didn’t understand the Web well enough to recognize why you might link to other people’s sites. (“I don’t think we need to be sending people away from our site! I don’t think that’s how we make money!”) What I didn’t remember, until Matt kindly reminded me, was that the self-infatuated guru atop the Digital Entertainment Network was a Channel One veteran named David Neuman. Neuman’s current job? He’s programming director for Current TV.

Read the whole thing, because Jesse is really on to something here. However, there’s another reason Current TV sucks, and it has nothing to do with Al Gore or David Neuman.

TV is, by its nature, passive entertainment. You can’t make it participatory by farming out your programming to a large stable of producers. Even today, the Big Four (Five? Six? Seven?) TV networks do just that – and yet somehow people (in declining numbers) just sit there and watch. Why? Because that’s what TV is: Something you watch.

Just because Gore TV picks from a larger stable of producers doesn’t change the fact that somebody – not you – has to choose what to broadcast. Somebody – not you – has to decide what you get to see. Somebody – not you – has to decide what’s worthy.

On TV, the only choices you really get are which pre-programmed station to watch, and for how long (if at all). There aren’t any buttons on the remote to let you do much else. Unlike, say, the internet, where everyone who wants to really can have a voice.

When it comes to TV, you have only a few choices. You can watch what they give you; you can turn the damn thing off; or you can throw a brick through the screen. That last option is what got me to start a blog.

I mean, have you seen the price of bricks these days?

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