Luke Jaeger (
Thu, 07 Aug 1997 17:54:44 -0400

Here's what's changed:

1. There are now hundreds upon hundreds of television channels, all
screaming for "content". This has made the turnaround time from "obscure
underground art" to "flavor of the week" shorter and shorter. 20 years ago
you couldn't see rock music performed on television unless you stayed up
until 1 am one night a week to watch "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert." Now you
can't watch TV for a minute without hearing it. (Of course the idea that
rock music was somehow part of "underground culture" was already quaintly
outdated by the 1970s but it was a comforting illusion). Hence the
(oxymoronic) profitability of all things labeled "alternative."

2. The potential noise level of hundreds of TV channels is dwarfed by the
potential noise level of the internet, which is well on its way to becoming
a commercial broadcasting medium - the only hitch being that none of the 8
corporations which control 99% of our media have yet figured out how to make
it profitable. (one word of advice, guys: Pornography).

3. PBS is facing a whole other range of difficulties which have forced it
(usually without too much of a fuss) to abandon any pretense of
"cutting-edge" status in favor of more bankable and palatable programming
such as cooking shows and white men in ties discussing mainstream politics.

4. The meteoric success of Sundance has somehow sent the message that it's
"cool" to be an independent filmmaker - and though I am flattered by this
sudden increased interest in my avocation, in reality "independent
filmmaker" has come to mean much the same thing as "alternative rock" - ie,
a cleverly labeled version of the Same Old Stuff. Those little arthouse
movie theaters of the 1980s are almost without exception either (a) owned by
major chains or (b) gone. If (a), what they are showing is more likely to be
calculatedly hip Hollywood-by-any-other-name product by the likes of Tintin
Quarrantino than anything deserving of being labeled "art." In film/video as
in music, the turnaround time has gotten ever shorter.

Here, by the way, is the reason the right-wingers all want to defund PBS:
Larry Pressler (PBS's #1 enemy) is in Rupert Murdoch's pocket. Murdoch needs
more broadcast frequencies to make Fox TV profitable. If PBS went under
those frequencies would be auctioned off. Murdoch is also sitting on a
proprietary data compression scheme which would enable several channels'
worth of programming to be broadcast digitally over a single existing
frequency, a potential goldmine for him if he gets the channels. I think
I've got this all right - I'll have to search for the original document that
substantiates all these scandalous accusations but it's around here

Grimly yours,