Mark R. Johnson


[Interactive Screens]
[Amateur Recording]
[24 Hours]




Part 3. An Assessment of Broadcasting

As a basis of comparison, the assessment criteria listed above can be applied to existing radio and television broadcast practices. For example, both radio and television tend to rate low in terms of interactivity. While it is true that the viewer/listener is encouraged to change stations, and with the advent of the remote control, this action takes place with much greater frequency, the significance and range of such actions are quite limited. Also, as mentioned earlier, traditional broadcast technologies, at least in this country, are still primarily based on an aging infrastructure that operates on a one-to-many communication paradigm. Even the with advent of digital satellite communication, broadcasting is still, by definition, a one-to-many endeavor. It also remains a time dependent process. If the viewer (or the viewer's representative, the VCR) does not happen to be tuned in at the time the broadcast takes place, the viewer misses out at least until the re-runs come back on. Finally, the feedback loop for traditional broadcasting is minuscule. All feedback is principally directed through alternate media such as telephone and the mail. Even then, the feedback is seldom encouraged -- one does not often see the producer or director's phone number scrawled across the last screen of credits or announced over the radio. As a result, the viewer has only very little control over the content itself.

This is, of course, a very brief and generalized look at traditional broadcasting practices. There are obvious exceptions to the model that is presented here, such as the Home Shopping Network, which certainly does encourage feedback ("send $29.95 to...") and, yes, they do make sure you see their phone number scrawled across the screen. Similarly, talk radio encourages people to call in to the show and participate directly in the creation of the content. (If you call in, you become the show.) However, even these scenarios affect a very small segment of the mass media population and are relatively minor in comparison to the practices of webcasting.

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Last modified 5/21/97.