The former president (Jankowski) and senior vice president (Fuchs) of CBS consider television's future and find the corporate networks in great shape despite cable TV's rise. The authors argue that the networks possess inherent strengths that will keep them powerful for many years to come. These include: tremendous concentrations of money, talent, and experience with long-established methods of creating popular entertainment; alliances with affiliates that pool news and other resources; and enormous audiences that will continue to lure advertisers. The virtues of the network concept explain Rupert Murdoch's recent success in building Fox and Ted Turner's attempted takeover of CBS, which occurred even as the media was sounding the networks' death knell. Meanwhile, a growing number of cable channels and emerging alternatives, though hobbled by a scarcity of money and talent, must fight for ever tinier slices of the viewer pie. This argument may be seen as self-serving, given the authors' backgrounds, and much of the rest of the book is little more than an apologia for TV. Sections on violence fail to consider important evidence of links between television and real-world violence. Other arguments- -that Americans want lowest common denominator entertainment, and that TV can't provide more balanced electoral coverage—also fail to persuade. But there's a strong dose of common sense in the authors' skepticism about the threat posed by cable and by developments like high-definition television, pay-per-view, and home shopping. The book also offers a solid overview of how networks function, of government regulation of TV, and of public television. Anyone betting heavily on the ``information superhighway'' should consider this bottom-line view. Take the rest with a grain of salt.
Read full book review >