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Broadcasting is (un)dead! Zombie alert?!

by on May 17, 2021

easyDNS is pleased to sponsor Jesse Hirsh‘s “Future Fibre / Future Tools” segments of his new email list, Metaviews

The revolution was not televised

Broadcasting is dead. As a concept it was killed by the Internet and the inherent interactivity (and surveillance) that the network of networks delivers. There are no consumers in so far as each user is a producer of data about their consumption, or rather engagement.

Similarly what remains of broadcasting is neither broad nor one directional. If anything what is currently referred to as broadcasting could be called narrowcasting as it attempts to do what broadcasters once accomplished, but to an increasingly narrow and niche audience.

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What if those who call themselves broadcasters are actually the undead, zombies, that march forward driven by their insatiable appetite to consume brains? Zombies begetting zombies is not a new metaphor applied to broadcasting, but it brings particular meaning when contrast to the ongoing rise of digital media, whether automatic or manual.

Broadcasting is dead, and it is therefore laughable if not horrifying to imagine the digital world bent to conform to broadcasting regulations and standards or be subject to authorities who regard everything through the cultural trope of broadcasting.

In this context it is worth noting that radio and television are alive and well, but are as technologies, no longer engaged in broadcasting.

Television is one of those obvious mediums that is too pervasive to be rare, and yet rarely is it well done. For example in our present reality almost anyone can make television, live television, that interacts in real time with its audience, as demonstrated every moment of every day on YouTube and Twitch. What we think of as television today is not broadcasting.

Same applies to radio, whether over the air commercial FM stations or the proliferation of podcasts, the interactivity, engagement, and multi-media environment that exists is enabling a radio resurgence, that is not broadcasting.

Language is inherently political, and our current definition of broadcasting is both political, but abstractly so. Some definitions specify broadcasting as exclusive to radio and television. Whereas others take a more generalized approach and refer to “one to many”, or imply the role of electronic amplifying media in general, which includes digital.

However for many people digital has never been regarded or comprehended through the lens or frame of broadcasting. Rather it has historically been an antagonist or contrast to the concept of broadcasting.

Hence why if broadcasters are declaring synergy or equivalence between digital media and broadcast media, that can only mean that broadcast media is dead, in spite of it still appearing alive and hungry for brains.

These differences are becoming visible because broadcasting has traditionally been heavily regulated. Broadcasters were powerful, and therefore required rules to regulate them.

Unfortunately these same broadcasters were also essentially in charge of shaping the perception of our reality, and their perception of the digital world did not include the need for rules, which is partly why there aren’t any.

The only rule in nature is eat or be eaten.

AT&T is nearing a deal to combine its content unit WarnerMedia with rival Discovery to create a media giant with an enterprise value of $150bn, just a few years after acquiring the owner of CNN, HBO and Warner Bros, said people briefed about the matter.

The board of directors of AT&T were meeting on Sunday to approve the deal, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter. The agreed deal is expected to be announced in the coming days, those people said.

The combination would merge one of Hollywood’s most valuable catalogues — spanning the Warner Bros film and television studios, the HBO network and a portfolio of cable channels including CNN — with Discovery, which has had success with a new streaming service aimed at unscripted cooking and home renovation shows.

Back in the mid to late 90s I was obsessed with a vision I had that AT&T would eat the Internet. I wrote about it a lot. Here’s a post from November 1996 on the mythology of technology where among other arguments I suggest:

The Internet is the virus from West Virginia that will consume all media until it becomes the information superhighway media monopoly brought to you by AT&T.

Which brings us (back) to our current problem. Zombies don’t follow rules, but they do need constraints, or at least we need to defend ourselves from them otherwise they will eat our brains and turn us into zombies that seek brains. I.e. the goal of broadcasters now is not to broadcast, since that is no longer possible, but rather turn others into broadcasters, or rather zombies that believe they’re broadcasting, when instead they’re just feasting on brains.

Similarly digital media requires rules, as quite like broadcasting, it represents and manifests tremendous power, that ought not to be abused, or used for purposes that are contrary to what as a society we desire. Like eating brains.

Yet regulating the living, based on the behaviour or needs of the dead, or undead, makes no sense whatsoever.

Which is why perhaps we should start by declaring broadcasting dead, or at least make an effort to kill the zombies that plague us?

In Canada this includes killing bill C-10 which is a pathetic attempt to “reign in big tech” by pretending that broadcasting as a concept can be upgraded to the digital era? Digital companies (and digital users) are not broadcasters. They are far more than that.

Broadcasting is dead, and one of the consequences of that is that there is no longer a shared reality. There is no longer any media that successfully serves and brings together a diverse audience. Some may claim to do this, but none achieve it.

Instead we are retreating into our own conspiracy communities that provide the meaning and belief systems that sustain us, regardless of what outsiders may think.

This makes broadcasters zombies, as they’re dead to many, and proof of a conspiracy to others.

We can mourn broadcasting, and we can remember the dead fondly, but life is for the living, and our digital lives require rules. Rules that are not served by the frame or concept of broadcasting.

Radio is alive. Television is alive. The digital ecosystem is alive.

Broadcasting is dead. Beware of zombies. Run if you can. Otherwise fight. For you life.

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