Public broadcasting is dead


Isn’t it a little weird? TV-stations decide for us when we want to see what program. The same goes for radio stations. Dial in at a certain time to hear your favourite talk show or DJ. Years ago that was a normal situation. Media broadcasted to the people, who ‘obeyed’ to them by keeping track of the station’s schedule and tuning in at the right time to not miss their favourite TV or radio show. Obviously people used video recorders to record programs when they couldn’t watch a program right away. But still, it’s quite odd that we have to commit ourselves to a broadcasting schedule media companies create on programs they produce for us, the public.

Is this traditional model of broadcasting companies still sufficient, or are there other possibilities to enjoy media?

Watching and listening on demand

Now things have changed, because most programs can be watched or listened to on demand. When I look at the way I consume media myself, I can’t remember the last time I stayed home to watch or hear a certain program. Instead I download the program from usenet, watch it on demand or listen to the podcast. There are a few radio shows I enjoy: Radio Online (Dutch Radio 1), BBC Digital Planet and WNYC’s RadioLab. The only program I can actually listen to on live FM radio is the Dutch program, but I rarely do. Instead I enjoy the podcast, which I consume at a moment and place I choose.

Public broadcasting as we know it

The question is: why is there public broadcasting anyway? Dutch public broadcasting for instance exists of 3 TV-channels and 6 radio stations. Several broadcasting organizations receive the right to broadcast a number of hours per week, based on the number of members they have. Because of this, all channels have a weekly schedule with programs from various broadcasting organizations. There was a discussion in Dutch politics concerning new broadcasting organizations who wanted to enter the public broadcasting system. Since there were more aspiring organizations than needed, a selection had to be made. Only a few organizations can enter the public broadcasting  channels. The programs they make are then scheduled amongst other programs, maybe even at a very unpleasant time of the day. A lot of people then don’t see the broadcast on TV, but look it up via internet then.

This system is quite weird to me, very limited. It’s like visiting your favourite blog, but only being able to do so on Tuesday night from 9pm to 10pm. That would be completely ridiculous.

The future

It would be much more logical to make all programs completely on demand. People can then pick their own favourite shows and watch them when it suits them. Paying members of broadcasting organizations can then finance the programs they make, together with government money that’s usually spent on public broadcasting. It has to be possible to watch everything from the comfort of your living room, but also with the comfort of planning it yourself.

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