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How we Got from TV Broadcasting to Streaming

Barry

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How we Got from TV Broadcasting to Streaming
« on: December 27, 2021, 02:09:22 PM »
Just some thoughts about how TV developed and how streaming is following a familiar pattern.
 
TV in the 1950s and 1960s established itself by being in almost all American’s homes.  Three Networks were established and Prime Time was created between 7:30-11 as Prime Time. Despite the first amendment, TV shows were heavily censored by the FCC, Networks and sponsors.  All shows had to be viewable for children. 
 
The movie studios resisted TV because it took away movie attendance. Mny companies refused to sell movies for TV viewing. In fact, in the 1960s NBC’s Saturday Night at the Movies was the only regular network showing of movies, although some movies had yearly, special showings.
 
TV programs began to change in the 1970s when the networks, seeing the popularity of movies, created many movies for TV. Some were good, such as “Brian’s Song” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” but most were forgettable and not rerun. The movies usually featured newer talent or talent that had aged out of the movies. TV stations often went off the air sometime after midnight. That changed when AT&T lowered their transmission rates and made late night broadcasting affordable in 1971.
 
The 1970s also introduced the mini and limited series. Usually, they were 6 to 10 chapters that developed a common arc. They were often based on current novels such as Roots, Rich Man Poor Man and the Winds of War. These were very popular.
 
The 1980s gave us more items that changed TV.  First, the syndicated TV show, such as Star Trek: The Next Generation. These shows were “sold” directly to local stations and did not have to go through Network censorship. Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, L.A. Law and later Picket Fences not only introduced adult themes in their stories, but most had longer story arcs that took many episodes, even a season to develop.
 
Of course Cable at this time was expanding. The first thing it did was make a whole new generation used to paying for TV which had been free. Basic Cable, was not under the control of the FCC. But cable, took time to develop adult content, partially concerned that the FCC could intervene. Often, when a sensitive subject was taken, a congressman would threaten to put cable under the FCC. However, a 2000 Supreme Court decision made government censorship of cable virtually impossible. It’s free speech.
 
In my opinion, “The Sopranos,” on HBO, was a huge game changer. It featured violence, nudity, pad language and bad behavior and became a huge hit. It it has become a model for what is now on Streaming TV.
 
We now have a generation that grew up on paid TV so paying for streaming is not so unusual. And Streaming has adapted the 1970s TV model:  Made for TV movies and mini and limited series with adult themes. And, like the 1970s, many of these TV movies have new talent and many have the talent that aged out of theatrical movies (The Irishman with DeNiro and Pacino). And, frankly, many of these movies do not have the bigger budget of theatrical movies.
 
At home, now, all of us have big screens and great sound so the trip to the theater to see a “small” movie with no special effects is not always compelling.
 
So everything old is new again.
 
 
*An important note:  Movies were heavily censored by governments before 1951 because the courts had ruled, until then, that movies were a “product” and therefore did not have first amendment rights.  In more modern times, the courts have thrown out the FCC’s “indecency” cases from networks (NYPD Blue and Fox’s 2003 Billboard Music Awards). 


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tripplej

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Re: How we Got from TV Broadcasting to Streaming
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2021, 03:46:47 PM »
Thanks Barry for the history details.

And like the cable back in the day, streaming is getting more and more expensive as more and more "exclusive" shows/movies/specials, etc. are only shown on certain streaming channels forcing you to add more channels if you want to watch those.
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Re: How we Got from TV Broadcasting to Streaming
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2021, 10:09:10 PM »
Streaming packages were always going to approach cable/sat prices, as long as the content is the same. YT just had a dustup with Disney, the same as previous TV providers have had. 

The big difference is the bartering of data in exchange for some amount of control and access. Streaming allows a very high level of data acquisition about viewers and habits compared to broadcast and even cable/sat systems. In return you get less or no commercials (mostly) and easier access to the back catalog. Obviously that varies depending on the streamer, i.e. YTTV is focused on live TV with a cloud based DVR to save some things, but won't give you true "everything in the past" type access the way something like Hulu, Netflix or a network like Paramount+ does.

Barry

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Re: How we Got from TV Broadcasting to Streaming
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2021, 05:03:53 PM »
 Our constitution reads, “…Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Yet it was done all the time.
 
Congress has gotten away with this by stating that they, according to the constitution, can regulate business.  So for the first half of this century, Congress declared that movies were a PRODUCT of an industry and therefore could be censored.  Starting in 1930 The Hayes office censored movies, not for “good taste” but for financial reasons.  Every state, at that time, had its own censorship office.  So, often, the movie producers had to produced dozens of different versions of the same movie. The Hayes office was created so that only one or two versions were necessary. (Southern theatres often edited out Black characters.)  In 1951 the Supreme Court declared that movies were entitled to first amendment rights. To compete against TV, in 1966 this code was abandoned and the letter rating took over.
 
Boy, has the FCC controlled Broadcast TV, even TV News.  Their strongest weapon was not fines but threatening to revoke station’s licensing or not granted additional license.  If you red the books, Dan Rather was fired from CBS for reporting on George Bush. Simply, the FCC would not grant CBS more stations until he was fired. The FCC required news shows to have an “equal Time” provision and the “Fairness doctrine.”  In actual use, the Fairness Doctrine required the networks to always give the government side of an analytical story.
 
Prime Time was originally 3.5 hours, from 7:30 to 11.00 PM. To punish the networks for their reporting on him, Nixon had them reduce it to three hours in 1971.  So instead of getting an extra half hour of network shows, we get Wheel of Fortune.
 
In more recent times, the court system has not enforced the FCC sanctions, basically claiming that they are not specific enough and interfere with free speech.
 
In 1954 Congress held hearing on comic books, stating they caused juvenile delinquency, illiteracy and homosexuality. No joke, it was claimed that reading Batman and Robin would awaken gay feeling in boys.  The required HUGE censorship (called the Comic Code) to be placed.  Simply, Congress threatened to take away the comic book companies’ mailing privileges if they didn’t adapt to the new code.

So we cannot take freedom of speech for granted.  Even with our constitution we must fight for it.
 
 


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Re: How we Got from TV Broadcasting to Streaming
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2021, 05:37:13 PM »
Barry,

Not to delve too far into politics, but what Rather reported was "fake news" and the documents he relied on could not be verified. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna6055248

https://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/tv/bal-te.to.cbs11jan11-story.html

Unfortunately, this hasn't stopped news organization from continuing their poor decision making. We just saw this play out again recently with the Steele Dossier, which turned out to be a complete fabrication from surprise, surprise, the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Our news media has turned into "get it out fast" instead of "get it out right." This is due to slander protection afforded by the Supreme Court in the Times versus Sullivan case back in 1964. Some argue that this case went too far which has lead to lazy reporting since in order to win the case you have to prove actual malice if you are a "public figure."

The publics trust in the press right now is pathetically low for good reason. The majority has crossed the line from calling balls and strikes and instead "root for the home team." There are very few journalists out there who have ethics. One that I respect is Glenn Greenwald (the guy who broke the Snowden story). While I don't agree with him on most of his political views, he goes equally hard at both the left and right when the facts say that they should be criticized and he keeps his own personal politics out of the story.

Here's a great rundown from the WSJ Editorial board regarding the case:

Reconsidering Times v. Sullivan
An influential judge says the ‘actual malice’ standard needs revision.

Senior Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals knows how to court media outrage. His gun-control opinion became the template for the Supreme Court’s landmark Heller decision that the Second Amendment is an individual right not limited to militias. Now he’s caused a stir with a dissent suggesting that the landmark libel ruling, New York Times v. Sullivan, should be reconsidered.
***
Judge Silberman’s partial dissent comes in a case in which two former Liberian officials sued the authors of a report suggesting they took bribes (Tah v. Global Witness). The majority opinion upheld a lower-court decision dismissing the case on the Times v. Sullivan logic that the report was not written with “actual malice,” defined as a reckless disregard for the truth. That’s the standard the High Court created in 1964 that makes defamation cases brought by public figures against the press nearly impossible to win—even if the reported facts turn out to be false.

Judge Silberman analyzes the facts and shreds the majority argument on the malice point even under the current Times v. Sulllivan standard. But more provocative is that he goes on to say that the Supreme Court created its actual-malice standard out of whole cloth, with no basis in the Constitution, overturning libel standards that had evolved over centuries in common law.

The judge notes that the Times ruling occurred in unique historical circumstances—to wit, the struggle for civil rights when Southern politicians used defamation law to stifle reporting on and criticism of Jim Crow. But Judge Silberman, whose former clerks include Justice Amy Coney Barrett, says the times have changed and the “actual malice” standard has effectively given the press a status above the Constitution that harms democracy.

As journalists we have an interest in preserving Times v. Sullivan. We correct mistakes. But we’ve had to defend against baseless defamation suits that were eventually dismissed, and the cost isn’t trivial. The Wall Street Journal has resources to defend its writers, but threats against small publications could have a chilling effect on robust journalism. (The British rule that the “loser pays” for the opponent’s legal costs would help here.)

On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that many in the media have taken a bad turn in recent decades—often under the protection of the actual-malice standard. The public agrees, judging by opinion surveys on collapsing trust in the press.

Think of the way the media trashed the Covington, Ky., high school student for his silence and half smile as he was assailed by an adult after a pro-life rally in 2019. The Washington Post and CNN settled the young man’s lawsuits, but would the outlets have shown more caution without the protection of Times v. Sullivan?

Or recall Sarah Palin’s suit against the New York Times for claiming in 2017 she had incited the deranged man who shot Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2011. The editorial was clearly false, the editing process was remarkably slipshod, and the Times ran a correction. A judge tossed the suit under the actual-malice standard until the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it, and it is now headed for trial.

Judge Silberman also has the liberal press in a lather because he called them out for one-sided bias. He says the New York Times and Washington Post “are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets,” and that most of the press follows their lead. He says the Journal news section “leans in the same direction,” which we think is wrong. The guiding ethic of our reporters is to play the news straight.

The judge cited our editorial pages, along with Fox News and the New York Post, as rare exceptions. But he noted they are controlled by “a single man and his son”— Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch —and that many Democrats are calling for the giant tech platforms to censor news from conservative publications. He says a press so one-sided is dangerous to democracy.
***
As for Times v. Sullivan, Judge Silberman concedes that prospects for overturning it are slim. But Justice Clarence Thomas has called for a similar reconsideration, and who knows who else might agree if the legal facts are presented in the right case. Judge Silberman’s opinion points to differences on how to define actual malice that now exist in the Second and D.C. circuits, which would be grounds for the Justices to take Tah v. Global Witness on appeal.

In any case the Silberman opinion ought to inspire some reflection about the low state of the media and its ideological conformity. The survival of a free press depends in part on the First Amendment. But in the long run it also requires support from a public that wants it to be free. A press that violates its privileges with impunity, born of legal protection from a dubious constitutional interpretation, is more vulnerable than righteous journalists think.



« Last Edit: December 29, 2021, 05:38:52 PM by David Vaughn »
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