Free-To-Die TV

Written by Harry Berg

I’ve been following the demise of Network Ten with the interest of a Cold War era citizen awaiting the fall of the Berlin Wall. Both Network Ten and the wall are symbols of an obsolete and outdated world. When the Berlin Wall fell, it ushered in a new post-cold war age. Unfortunately, the Australian government has decided to delay Australia’s next media age and hold on to the past like a has-been rock star.

2017 has already seen the Turnbull Government abolish the law restricting any single TV network reaching more than 75% of the population as well as the ‘two-out-of-three rule’ that prevented any company from owning a TV station, radio station and newspaper in the same media market.

The Government also reduced licensing fees for free-to-air TV networks from $130 million to just $40 million. That’s close to $130,000 for the 698 public hospitals in Australia, more than $13,500 for the 6,651 public schools, or almost $900,000 for each of the 105,237 homeless people in the country. And the networks are still pressuring the government for further cuts. “The small cut in this budget is not nearly what the industry needs to compete and innovate in a fundamentally changing media environment” claims Tim Worner, CEO of Seven West Media.

But all this is besides the point.

The point is that if influential and powerful businesspeople (who are the last people in the country that need financial relief) didn’t own or have shares in these failing networks, there would be not cuts at all.

Former Treasurer, Peter Costello is the chairman of the Nine Entertainment Network. Kerry Stokes, worth more than 2 billion dollars, the chairman of both Seven West Media and Seven Group Holdings.

Foxtel, owned by NewsCorp and Telstra, recently invested $77 million dollars into the ‘failing’ network Ten, whose major investors already included Gina Rinehart (the richest person in Australia), James Packer (the seventh richest person in Australia), Lachlan Murdoch (Rupert Murdoch’s son), and Bruce Gordon (owner of WIN group). Despite receiving the cuts they pushed for, these latter two (who collectively are worth around $4 billion) publicly refused to invest any more money into Channel Ten, leaving the burden on the Australian public.

The Australian Subscription TV & Radio Association asserted that taxpayers will have to pay “an unconditional handout of approximately $150 million” to make up for the deficit caused by the Not-Free-Anymore TV networks.

Now that they’ve drawn blood, these vampiric companies will never stop sucking the life out of Australia’s economy. It is the only way they can survive. The very foundation of their decaying industry is crumbling beneath them. And rightly so. Instead of updating the industry’s architecture, they clung to the rotting beams already at hand. The Government may as well provide tax relief to the struggling blacksmithing industry, convert the roads to something more suitable for horse drawn carriages or even provide financial aid to the Weimar Republic. I hear that these obsolete institutions are also going through hard times.

Context for international readers: This is the logo of Network 10 and Australia’s Welfare department, Centrelink, squashed together.

On top of offering an outdated service, these networks provide terrible content. Cheap-to-make and sponsored reality programs, that aren’t that far removed from an infomercial, fill their rosters. The networks even have the nerve to interrupt these subtle ads with full fledged ad breaks that seem to get louder and longer every time I have the displeasure of viewing one and usually have a higher production value than the reality shows they interrupt.

Everything about these stations is inefficient and outdated. They’ve had a long run though, made billions, trillions even. Now their monopoly has ended and it is time for them to lay down and die gracefully. But, to the detriment of the Australian public, graceful isn’t a word these corporations understand. Just like the countless shows they have let outlive their use, like the ad breaks they stretch to the point of maddening and the elasticity they use with the word celebrity when referring to a reality TV contestant, they will go out in a desperate, pitiful and expensive disaster.

That the Government is using even one cent of taxpayer money to prolong Free-To-Air-TV is a crime against humanity that ought to attract immediate international intervention. Channel 9’s A Current is an atrocity that has gone on for longer than any major war. Forget Islamic terrorism and focus on these homegrown terrorists that seek to destroy the population’s intellect. Put on any commercial station and you will find sociopaths with absolutely no empathy for their viewer. Kochie (Sunrise), Tracy Grimshaw (A Current Affair), the entire cast of Studio 10.

In fact, ignore all the good that Australia could achieve with the millions and millions of dollars and focus on all the bad that that money could inflict on the above mentioned people. What would a state of the art, maximum security prison look like? Hilarious if we incarcerated Peter Helliar there. Or perhaps like justice if the 60 minutes team finally got the imprisonment Network 9 (or, considering the new tax breaks, the Australian public) bailed them out of when they went to Lebanon and filmed themselves kidnapping a child.

We could even use commercial TV’s favourite weapon against them. A brand new reality show: ‘Australia’s Got Vengeance’, where we put all these people through a series of torturous and deadly games until there is only one left. The winner will have earned their redemption by ensuring the death of their peers. Based on her cockroach-like nature, my money’s on Tracy Grimshaw.

What can Australians do about this whole situation? We leave you with a piece of advice from the apt 1976 movie ‘Network’: All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’

You can find more from Harry Berg at his site HERE

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