Let’s get one thing straight, right off the bat. Television is an expensive medium, and everything we see has to be paid for. The only exception may be the public service announcements that appear once in awhile, but everything else comes at a cost. And that cost is not cheap.
One network, NBC, paid over seven Billion, yep, that’s Billion with a “B” for the rights to broadcast the Olympic games for the next few years. Other networks spend similar billions to bring things like football and baseball games, golf, soccer, and tennis matches, bull riding and other sports most of us have never even heard of, into our living rooms.
They have but one reason to spend that kind of money to televise a golf match or a poker game: they know they will make more than they spend and make what they euphemistically call a “reasonable” profit. What they mean is that they will make a bucket full of money, more than most of us can even dream about.
And where does that money come from? Why, the companies who sponsor those events, of course. And where do companies get the millions of dollars they pay to the networks? You and me, my friend, you and me. We buy the products that Ford, GM, Proctor and Gamble, Miller, Coors, Anheuser Busch, Coke and Pepsi, and all the others they tell us we need.
So if we “follow the money,” it goes from my pocket to a retailer. Let’s say I bought a can of Coke. That money goes to the retailer where I bought the drink, from the retailer to its supplier, from there to the manufacturer, from Coco-Cola to an agency who made an ad with its iconic polar bears. Then it Coco-Cola buys enough time from a network to show that ad during a football game.
Coke bought the time from the NFL who sold the right to broadcast those games to a network that made the highest bid. All so we can watch Sunday night or Thursday night or any other game they have contracted.
In short, as far as the corporations and the NFL are concerned, it all comes back to money and profits. And they only make those unbelievably huge profits if millions of people watch the games.
That explains why announcers often talk about just about anything other than the game they are covering. That explains why there were all the scenes of an athlete’s childhood mixed in the actual events at the Olympics. It also explains why the so-called “color” announcer will tell us at half-time how many times a team has come back from a 63-0 drubbing to win a game.
The very last thing any announcer wants is for us to switch off a game and watch something else. The announcers could not possibly care less who wins or loses so long as an audience keeps watching.
Network executives listen, too, and if an announcer does not say enough to keep an audience, that announcer will soon be looking for another job. And if a network’s audience shrinks, and the profits begin to dwindle, it will begin looking for ways to get that audience back.
In short, it is all about the money.
But sports announcers and how networks make their billions are one thing. Contrary to what some think, sports in America is not all that happens. There are tragedies, shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and yes, sadly, politics.
Once upon a time networks and their news divisions covered everything that was reliably factual. No more.
Once upon a time there was “entertainment” and there was “information.” The information was carried by those news departments, and networks lived with the fact that the news departments would not make money. There was just no way they could maintain news bureaus in the major cities of major countries, staff them, have reputable reporters cover the events there and bring that information back to American audiences and still make a profit.
To solve that problem, network executives came up with a unique idea and another unique word to describe it. They coined the word “infotainment,” a Frankenstein creation that combined information and entertainment.
As Walter Cronkite wrote in his book “A Reporter’s Life,” “The infotainment trend has been exacerbated in recent years by the network fight to hang on to a viable share of a shrinking pie. . . The news departments have moved from the loss leaders of my years to profit centers, and management now considers rating more important than prestige.”
Think about that the next time you see what passes these days for a “newscast,” especially one coming from a major network. Local news “shows” are a bit better but they usually just repeat the same stories three times in ninety minutes,
But the worst offenders are the network news broadcasts that still want us to believe they are in business to bring us news. They are in it to make money, and to make money they need to get the highest ratings, and truth means nothing.
So they don’t tell us what we need to hear and they don’t show us what we need to see. They don’t ask the questions that need to be asked. They perpetuate a “show and tell” that is all about entertainment, and we, like sheep, willingly accept their drivel as news.