Myths of Television

From The 5 Myths of Television Power: Or, Why the Medium Is Not the Message by Douglas Davis, 1993 Simon & Schuster, NYC:

  1. TV Controls Our Voting
  2. TV Has Destroyed Our Students
  3. TV Is (Our) Reality
  4. TV Pacifies Us (We Are Couch Potatoes)
  5. We Looove TV

"You won't see a lot of our ads... The problems we face are difficult and complex. I believe you deserve more than 30 second commercials with vague promises. We want you to have a copy of our plan. Call us or visit your local library." --- Lawton Chiles, 1990 TV spot

"Though widely praised, the campaign of Lawton Chiles for governor of Florida in November 1990 -- or rather, its radical media strategy -- was kept secret, rather like the furtive romance of a priest or philosopher-king. By contemporary standards, Chiles spent a pauper's sum for television ($5 million)... while... (his opponent) Martinez poured dollars into TV ($10 million) with the free-spending abandon that has become routine for established American politicians... He not only called TV power into question: he proved it wrong...

"Chiles' success certainly discomfited most of all those who profit from the wholesale commitment to TV power, that is, campaign managers and TV exchequers across the land, which share a pie approaching $1 billion every four years. His victory even threatened those who regularly denounce the medium's power, among them academics, columnists, and nearly all politicians who lose hard-fought campaigns...

"Michael Robinson, a prof. of gov't at GWU... isolated 60 bitterly contested primary campaigns in 1988, half D, half R: The candidate who spent the most money on media and advertising lost in well over half the elections (60%). Among... losers... Al Gore...

"...the cost of campaigns [increased] tenfold between 1970 and 1990. The price for a race for a seat in the House... leaped 482% between 1975 and 1990 alone. The average cost of a competitive senatorial campaign climbed to $10 million by 1988, 10 times the cost in 1974. In 1988, [Rs & Ds] together spent $50 million on media. By 1992, Bush alone began the campaign with a budget of $40 million targeted [at TV]."

" TV sees the viewer's mind as something like a tiny container ventilated with holes -- a school child's lunch box... 'The attention span of the average viewer is short.', Av Westin, ...ABC producer...

"Not that long ago, both politicians and their managers believed differently. Though pre-TV political campaigns were boisterous and sensational, the candidates believed they had to elaborate positions at length to be taken seriously by the voters, whether the positions were directly read or heard at all. In the 1950s... well into the 1970s the genre of the 'half hour' film or live speech, when the candidate laid himself on the line in detail, was assumed to be as critical to victory as kissing babies. Even in moments of crisis... compelled to establish their gravity by unveiling positions patiently before the microphone, the camera, or crowd, then passing out bulky treatises to the press..."