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TV Networks "Operating Out of Fear," Prof. Jeff McCall '76 Tells Christian Science Monitor

January 2, 2009

Jeff McCall 2006 Crop.jpgJanuary 2, 2009, Greencastle, Ind. — "Once upon a time, in the world of network television, January was a big deal, a launching pad for important new shows," begins a story in today's Christian Science Monitor which includes analysis from a DePauw University professor. "Some of TV history's most influential programs debuted in this midseason slot ... But this year, in an industry still recovering from the production delays and $2.1 billion in losses from last year's 100-day writers' strike and struggling to stem audience erosion, the midterm slate is a lackluster event at best, say media watchers," writes Gloria Goodale.

"'It's downright depressing,' says Jeff McCall, professor of communication at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. The networks are trying to survive in tough economic times, he says, but they're making the wrong decisions for a creative business. 'They're operating out of fear,' says Mr. McCall. 'They're afraid to try anything out of the mold, so there's no innovation.'"TV Set Dart.jpg

The text notes, "From a warmed-over retread of a 10-year-old show (Cupid, on ABC) to more reality shows (Ashton Kutcher's Game Show in My Head) and crime serials (FOX's Lie to Me, about a human lie detector), the schedule abounds with sameness.'

Dr. McCall tells the Monitor, "The network executives strike me as timid poker players. They want to make big money but they're afraid to put any big money on the table."

The piece also notes some of the challenges broadcasters have faced lately, and the looming February 17 permanent switch from analog to digital transmission. The approximately 10% of viewers who get signals with an antenna will need a digital converter to continue receiving their favorite shows. "This is a disproportionately large group of major-network viewers," points out McCall. Goodale writes, "Here again, he says, the networks McCall Book Viewer Discretion.jpgface the fact that at least one-third of this group will invest in some form of cable or satellite service. 'Once that happens, they will explore and experiment with their new TV-watching tools. This is yet another group that will be watching fewer traditional broadcasts,' he adds.

Access the complete article -- "Playing it safe, television sticks with the tried and true" -- at the newspaper's Web site.

Jeff McCall is a 1976 graduate of DePauw and author of the book Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences. He has been cited in articles published by more than 80 newspapers and has appeared seven times on FOX News Channel's' O'Reilly Factor.

On December 20, the professor's column on parent's role in monitoring their childrens' television viewing was published in the Indianapolis Star.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

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