Two TV-Related Articles Worth Reading

1. David Simon, creator of The Wire (aka “TV for people who claim not to own TV sets”) says that television as a medium has “short-changed itself” because of advertising, and that “only when television managed to liberate itself from the economic construct of advertising was there a real emancipation of story.” I pass that along with a certain reluctance, because I think it’s basically poppycock.* The way Simon describes it, it sounds like the equivalent of saying that theatre has short-changed itself by the need to have between one and four intermissions, and not until the intermissionless Man of La Mancha did the art form really liberate itself. It’s an even odder argument in a time when HBO is being outdone by other cable channels that do have commercial interruptions. But Simon made a great show, one that probably couldn’t have been done on a network with advertising, and anything he says is on the subject is of interest. (And having argued that the over-abundance of commercials and the shrinking of running times is really hurting network TV, I’d never argue that commercials can’t have a negative effect on content. They do all the time, not just in terms of the way stories are told but in what advertisers are willing to accept.)

2. Yet another article on TV-on-DVD music rights. They pop up every few months, but this one, by Daniel Frankel of The Wrap, is very readable and goes into more detail than usual about exactly how you clear music for DVD. One thing he mentions that I hadn’t really understood before is that the big studios often try to over-compensate for previous mistakes in the way songs were licensed, seeking to “license music into perpetuity, paying for regions and timelines that, in many cases, they don’t need.” The only way to make it even close to affordable is to enter into licensing agreements for DVD that are limited to a few years and a few places — kind of like the way these songs were cleared for the original broadcasts and no longer.

*Do people still say “poppycock?” They should. It’s a great word, descriptive and sounds like it could be dirty even though it isn’t.

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