NBC’s “Olympics guru” Dick Ebersol recently bashed Conan O’Brien, saying the former Tonight Show host failed because he didn’t follow advice “to make his show friendlier to middle America.” While Ebersol may be simply trying to impress his boss by glossing over some important facts, his comments, unfortunately, accurately describe the state of things in major broadcast TV and show why nationalism should really be left out of the media equation.
If a TV network or newspaper is set up along national lines, as most are, then they have only one country to pull audience from. This, in turn, means that they cannot tailor their major shows to one specific type of audience, people who live in large cities for example, if they want to reach as many people as possible.
If it’s gonna succeed, it’s gotta be able to play in Peoria or Moose Jaw. This can lead to entertainment shows getting sapped of some of their edge and news coverage being limited to a narrative all parts of one particular country can accept.
There is a larger audience out there. Shows aimed at a particular type of crowd can find that crowd in the same type of place around the world. If, for example, a show plays primarily to urbanites, they can play to millions of them in all the major cities (that speak the same language) globally.
Likewise, if the majority or half the residents of a particular country are of a different political persuasion than the slant of a particular story, airing the story in that country may not be that appealing. However, the remaining half of the population along with people in other countries that feel the same can together make up the desired audience for the content in question.
It’s all about thinking internationally rather than nationally and the internet is making this possible. Unfortunately, as the traditional media companies go online, they are trying to use the same country-based approach and restricting content based on national boundaries. This approach hasn’t permeated down to smaller, independent content producers and hopefully it never will.
But wait, how will countries with smaller populations and less funding for cultural industries, say Canada, be able to compete with the American behemoths residing in Hollywood and New York if the nationalist protectionist approach to media is abandoned? The answer is simple they won’t have to.
If the networks producers operate with become international, then the primary producers become local. While Canada may not be able to compete with the US, Montreal can most definitely compete with Detroit. Moreover, people in Montreal producing a certain type of content can network with like-minded people in Detroit, London and Frankfurt to get all of their content seen and/or read.
Why should 21st century media operate on 18th and 19th century constructs like national borders?