The shifting sands of the audience receiving a shore break of electronic input continues to change the makeup of modern society, the shifting more evident as times goes by on almost a daily basis. Who can remember when Netflix was not here when it served merely as a place where VCR cartridges could be rented? Hulu was a misspelled word for a Hawaiian dance. Vudu was scary stuff, also misspelled from the Caribbean-based religion down there. Amazon was there, but only selling books.

Today, almost as if they have always been there, the Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Vudu streaming services for television dominate the television audience. Advertisements are shunned in favor of medium to high monthly service charges automatically deducted from the bank and credit card accounts. Lifetime payments, it would seem, as once the automatic payments kick-in they are rarely checked by those paying, for accuracy or consistency. The networks are fading ghostly creatures of ever lessening power, as this grand electronics shift occurs. Network News is doing away with regular show broadcasting, partially because of the reality television shows the networks decided to dive into almost twenty years ago (yes, the first ‘Survivor’ show was back in 2000). The reality shows were a place the networks could go to make television on the cheap. The ‘stars’ did not get paid money. They got paid by being able to become famous (which rarely happened). An incidental side effect of this change from scripted fictional presentation to supposed reality filming was that the public never quite believed the reality shows were real. That doubting side effect transferred over into network news. Fake news was born long before Trump coined the term, and began using it for any news he didn’t like. The cable show news channels began to grow in popularity with only two poles of gathered followers with a few in between. Fox News grew with the support of the right wing. MSNBC grew with the support of the left wing. All news went from being the result of human covered stories to stories taken from whatever sources were indigenous to an area where attention was needed from or wanted. Indigenous meaning local and mostly unpaid.

Once again, the expenses for putting on productions for the public were cut. With one growing exception. The birth and growth of cable fictions series, taken straight from the playbook of what built network television in the first place, but much better funded. Apple dived into this field with its trillions of dollars of cash reserves. HBO, Starz, and so many more subscription cable sources are producing and filming their own funded series, one after another. People watch these shows in ‘binge’ form. One episode after another is viewed until late in the evening or even very early in the morning until that series is done, and then it’s on to the next series.

All of this has occurred in such a subtle way that it seems like this system and congregated ‘shore’ of presentation has always been there. It’s hard to remember a time when there were no cell phones, only libraries for fact-checking or getting stored data. It’s even harder to recall going to airports to pick up people and not being able to find them in the /overpopulated mess they were.

~~by James Strauss

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