I’ve talked before about the casual dismissal with which television networks routinely treat the stated desires of their viewing audience, and how baffling this is in light of the fact that these audiences are ultimately the networks’ source of income (since advertisers flee when their products are not purchased). I’d like to expand on that point, if I might, by addressing the impact of this dynamic on relevant economies. For there is a tendency among networks when canceling popular television programs – including, of course, beloved soap operas, Primetime such as The Desperate House Wife, Brother and Sister – to blame their decision on poor economic conditions. The sheer small-minded shortsightedness of this argument is nothing less than staggering.
To begin with, a bad economy equals a boom for television, for the simple reason that it’s cheap. People with large amounts of discretionary income opt for costly forms of entertainment, including fine restaurants, night clubs, and tourist attractions. But when that money dries up, two pastimes rise to the fore: TV shows and movies – with the latter being a luxury enjoyed only sparingly in comparison to the former. So, that “bad economy” television networks are whining about? They should be thrilled.
Moreover, by strengthening the television industry, an opportunity is created to revitalize the economy in general. Television production (such as the soap operas) does not occur in a vacuum. In addition to the obvious employment of people like actors and directors, there are caterers, security firms, restaurants – a virtually uncountable array of businesses which become employed by the demand for services of a production project. This is no trifling sum of money; especially when factoring in the boost from the so-called “bad” economy, we are talking about billions of dollars in revenue for local enterprise. The effect of this is self-evident, but I’ll state it anyway: The economy gets stronger.
This is why, while the ultimate decision to conduct or to stop production rests with the networks, some of the factors affecting it are controlled by government officials. They are the ones most directly concerned with stimulating the economy, and it is their policies that can encourage or discourage the making of TV shows. Tax incentives, less stringent regulation, modest industry subsidies – all of these are valid and workable ideas for persuading networks to keep production going. And it all starts with us, dear friends. We are the ones who must remind the networks and the government how the economy really works, and that its machinations ultimately begin and end with us. Money talks, and there is no ear on Earth that can ignore the sound of the people’s money when that sound grows loud enough. So let’s make some noise!
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