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The Future of Television - A Global Overview of Programming, Advertising, Technology and Growth.

THE FUTURE OF TELEVISION -- A Global Overview of Programming. Advertising. Technology and Growth written by Marc Doyle and presented by NATPE (NTC Business Books, 187 p.), is a somewhat puzzling book which proves, if anything, how difficult it is to chart the global progress of an industry that is moving and expanding as fast as television. It certainly covers a lot of useful ground, it offers a wide variety of pertinent topics, along with comments and explanations from top executives in various countries, and it tries hard to document growth and vision, but it's also curiously flat and, in some instances, out-of-date.

"The stage is set for a decade of dramatic and revolutionary change...that will make previous decades uneventful by comparison," Doyle writes, and he is preceded by an excellent foreword from Les Brown who notes "waves that are ever so subtly moving the American television industry onto yet another course." Brown believes all this will lead to "an end to American insularity." which is a fair-enough conclusion.

The Future of Television deals intelligently with the evolving markets throughout the world, covering the specifics of major markets, like Japan, Germany, the U.K, Canada, France and Italy, and explains how the various systems function there, both economically and technologically. It's like a meticulous, a little pedantic guide to the international business side of television.

The question inevitably comes up -- which audience is Doyle writing for? If it's executives in the industry, and particularly those concerned with the international market, they shouldn't be in the job if they aren't aware of the facts and prevailing conditions spelled out in this primer. If The Future of Television is aimed at the public, then Doyle's sparse style hardly suits the purpose.

A lot of very knowledgeable people -- from Michael Solomon, Ted Turner, Herb Granath and Frank Mancuso to Barry Diller (still listed as chairman of Fox Broadcasting), Lew Grade and EEC Commissioner Jean Dondelinger -- are extensively and intelligently quoted on various issues.

Some of what they say is self-evident -- and self-serving. Solomon predicts an increase in the demand for commercial programming abroad, and argues that cultural fear of being swamped by the Americans has "absolutely no validity." Dondelinger writes the "Television Without Frontier" directive doesn't represent protectionism, and he envisions 400,000 European program hours by 1995. In 1989, European shows filled only 11 per cent of their own market.

The trouble with the book, despite its many interesting observations, is that it basically consists of snippets of information whose practical usefulness must be questioned. Some of the chapters are almost ridiculously telescoped and lack cohesion. It's like a long string of trade paper clippings pasted together and connected with a sparse explanation that seems super-careful not to depart from the conventional.

What makes the book are the individual contributions, not so much in terms of their practicality to the reader, but because of the lucidity of the commentators. Nicholas Negroponte, the director of MIT's Media Lab, notes that "In the future, most information will not be sent to people. It will be sent to machines" and he discusses building intelligence into a TV receiver.

Granath talks interestingly about interactive TV, and Brandon Tartikoff (still listed as chairman of Paramount) predicts that, within five years, you are looking at at least one, probably one another, for a total of about five or six primary suppliers of competitive original programming. The networks, he predicts, are going to have to "step up the level of originality in their program bank in prime time."

The cable chapter is probably the most disappointing in the book. It starts with "Advertisers are also expected to support continued growth in the cable side of the business during the '9os.' Barely half a page is given to Barter.

The Future of Television represents not only a proper recognition of the international expansion and inter-action of television, but also an attempt to analyze the impact on the medium globally. That this cannot easily -- or very effectively -- be done in a slim volume is made dramatically clear in this book.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Hift, Fred
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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