Don't touch that dial02 Oct 09 12:00PM EST |
I think the time is fast approaching when free-to-air TV is going to become almost entirely irrelevant in most peoples lives. Its not that I've any empirical evidence for its demise, nor is it something I would wish to happen, but the major networks in Australia seem to have a death wish.
Figures for pay TV are looking healthier than they ever have, we're happy to purchase a TV series on DVD rather than watch it with ads on free-to-air, significant numbers of us are recording programs so we can watch them at our convenience, rather than when they're broadcast. The latter also makes it possible to fast forward through ads, which I suspect is part of the reason for recording in the first place. Of course there's also downloading from the internet, which may involve some questionable legal practices but, along with the rest, is a clear indicator that the current model for free-to-air TV isn't working for lots of people.
I've no doubt that Freeview, which locks up recorders so they can't skip forward over ads will only be a stopgap measure. Although there are some more sinister sides to these recorders which may be enabled in the future – the spectre of networks determining what can be recorded, or for how long is casting a shadow. In my opinion that would a really silly move.
A disaffected and relatively savvy audience will react very poorly if the networks make it more difficult to access the programs they want. They'll go elsewhere – they already are.