Television Whores Just Can't Get Enough

Nielsen Media Research has released data for last season that confirms NBC’s status as the top whore in television. NBC acheived this milestone by doubling the number of its product placements in the 2003-04 season. CBS came in second with Fox close behind in 3rd.

Primetime product placements increased more than 30% on all 6 national broadcast networks combined. That represents more than 70,000 product insertions into program content. That’s on top of the 25% increase in actual minutes of commercials per hour (to 16 1/2) over the last decade. So to summerize, for every hour of TV you watched last season, you saw 16 1/2 minutes of commercials. And the the remaining 43 1/2 minutes contained 1000’s more commercial messages. It might make you wonder when TV programs will actually contain no entertainment content at all and just be one long commercial. Oh wait, I forgot about The Apprentice. The future is now.

Commercials themselves have become platforms for product placement as Arnold Schwarzenegger proved by inserting the products of his corporate contributers into his campaign ads.

For people who don’t mind having sales pitches thrust in their faces 24/7, maybe these numbers will generate little concern. But by sucking ever more revenue from corporate advertising clients, the strangling addiction can’t help but impact the media conglomerates who become increasingly reliant on their largesse. This gives the advertisers more leverage to influence program content throughout the network, including the news, which networks just regard as more shelf space, no different than sitcoms or soap operas.

Conflicts are sure to arise when an advertiser, say General Electric, objects to a news item critical of their refrigerators. Even worse, they may object to a news item that questions our participation in a war which would consume GE’s many defense products. How much pressure would it take to dissuade a network dependent on GE’s cash, from altering or scrapping such a story? How much pressure would it take if GE owned the network itself, as it does NBC?

The incestuous relationship between corporate America, corporate media, and corporate-owned politicians is hastening the erosion of what’s left of our nation’s press. This prowling triplex is far more dangerous than the military/industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about 45 years ago. If it isn’t stopped, we can forget about reliable news outlets; we can forget about open government; we can forget about Democracy itself.


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