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TV is a drug - so let's just say no John Ryle guardian. That was in the days before digital, before satellite and cable, when the number of TV channels in Britain could be counted on the fingers - or digits - of one hand.
Since then, each year has added force to Jerry Mander's case: The imminent launch of digital broadcasting is likely to provide more evidence for the prosecution - reasons, to be exact, this being the number of channels on offer from BSkyB via the electronic Trojan horse they call a set-top box.
Would you buy a box from a company with a name like a Russian rap artist? Neither would I, but BSkyB will be more or less giving the things away, to get themselves installed in our households at the dawn of digital.
Other electronic entrepreneurs lie in wait. The channels, we are told, will swell to with the addition of digital, terrestrial and cable, and further digital satellite services.
They will convert television into something between a webserver and a multiplex cinema. I am surely not the first to ask this question, but I still haven't had a satisfactory answer: After all, the five that we have got - without benefit of satellite or cable - are already largely filled with tosh.
The grey men of TV, gathered at the Edinburgh Festival last weekend, have been promoting the new technology for years. But content-providers, as they are called in the current lumpen vocabulary of the entertainment media, have come up with little that is new.
Movie channels, music channels, news channels, documentary channels, talk-show channels, and soap channels. The brave new multi-channel world consists almost entirely of what used to be programmes, or programming strands, instantly extrapolated into non-stop hour broadcasting.
Making decent TV programmes is expensive. The more channels there are, the fewer viewers each will have, the less advertising income will be generated and the less there will be to spend on programmes. As Kingsley Amis said of higher education, more will mean worse.
By now, even those of us who do not permit satellite or cable to darken our doors have glimpsed the future. Lonely and weak-willed in some hotel room abroad, you succumb to the remote control and start flicking through the channels - a mere 50 or 60 up to now, half of them blank and filled with white noise, the other half unwatchable for more than a minute and a half.
Channel-surfing is one of the few encouraging things about television: The last time I gave in to the lure of hotel cable in the US, I was transfixed by the sight of Dionne Warwick, the sixties soul star, face-lifted and transformed into a frontperson for the Psychic Friends Network, selling premium-rate telephone clairvoyant services to America's poor.
Earlier this year, in what was, presumably, an unforeseen development, the Psychic Friends went off the air and filed for bankruptcy. Doubtless they will be reincarnated - as the Channelling Channel, perhaps.
It's hard to imagine what most of these channels will even be called. You can have a skateboarding channel and a surfing channel. And a channel-surfing channel, which flips through the channels at random to save viewers the trouble.
You can divide documentaries into natural history, current affairs and the Diana Channel. You can stagger the programming so that contiguous channels show the same content on a different schedule, so if you miss Rubbish Movie II in the afternoon, you can see it again in the evening or before breakfast.
In the multichannel future there will be no time of day, no watershed. But there's still a way to go. You could have a war channel, with highlights of on-going conflicts round the world, but that might be confused with the News. You could have a Sleep Channel, showing particularly uninteresting programmes, but that might be confused with Channel 5.
You could have a swathe of new-age programming: They'd be cheap, at least. You could have a fly-on-the-wall channel that followed the daily life of a family whose members do nothing but channel-surf all day.
But we are already scraping the barrel and barely into three figures. TV is a drug - anti-social, addictive and bad for you.
The TV set is already a kind of hypodermic syringe, offering a quick route to the nervous system. But the use of television in the multi-channel future will be more like crack cocaine - fast-acting and low-grade. The channel we really need is the Off Channel, the one that shows a blank screen and tells you to get a life.The proposal will require direct-to-consumer television advertisements for prescription drug and biological products paid for by Medicare or Medicaid to include the list price if the list price—the Wholesale Acquisition Cost—is greater than $35 for a month’s supply or the usual course of therapy, with the prices updated quarterly.
It was completely like a drug or chocolate. The show has ended. I’m left with three options: 1) take a few deep breathes, 2) do something distracting for the next 2 hours, 3) take a walk or. A Claritin ad aired in before regulatory changes made drug spots on television more common — and before the allergy medication became available over-the-counter.
The glaring similarity would obviously be the way in which a good series and a drug are consumed. Binge watching a TV show is similar to binge drug use because both driven by massive compulsion. The episodes just keep on piling up and soon enough you realize that you have just spent 5 hours watching 6 episodes of Dexter.
Television viewers are inundated with drug ads from Big Pharma. It’s a flood. Why? Who is going to remember to ask their doctor whether these and other obscure meds are right for them?
What’s going on here? The answer is: IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT DRUGS ARE BEING ADVERTISED. For example, one discussion piece argued that television has been a scapegoat for social ills, derived in part from a television-as-drug metaphor (Mittell, ). Also, one study of college student subjects found that television viewing was inversely related to sensation seeking, alcohol, and drug use, and positively associated with religiosity.