Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

TV Is Drivel, Today And Yesterday

When a man like Rupert Murdoch doesn't get something he badly wants, there is a tendency in the rest of the media world to regard it as an undiluted victory over the forces of philistinism and gratuitous vulgarity.

This is a shortsighted view.

It ignores the degree to which vulgarity has infested institutions and properties to which Murdoch holds no claim.

Besides, Murdoch's surprise failure last week to win the prize of DirecTV's 10 million satellite subscribers only means that someone else, in this case EchoStar, will control all 16.7 million television sets that receive channels from orbits in outer space. EchoStar's monopoly is, if anything, a more fearsome concentration of media power than even the prospect of Murdoch imposing his seedy tastes on 10 million households.

Until only last week it seemed Murdoch had a hammerlock on a deal giving him instant control of a satellite empire that would solidify his claim to being master of the universe, the man who with the flick of a switch could determine what people are allowed to watch in Britain, China and large parts of the United States not served by cable. Then something happened and EchoStar seemed to walk off with everything.

I suppose it would be unfair to even suggest Murdoch fired a torpedo into his own deal because his corporate balance sheets have been wrecked by events since Sept. 11.

Still, for all we know, he may be tickled to death to avoid such a huge and expensive acquisition at a time when the economic outlook is so uncertain and many of his properties are being bled white by lost revenues.

Anyway, there are people, including some leading Democrats in Congress, who have vowed to place their live bodies in the path of the EchoStar deal.

The prospect of Murdoch, a Tory Republican with impeccable rightwing credentials, coming to them with hat in hand for favors must make them salivate.

This is, after all, the man who liked to think he had Newt Gingrich in his pocket and that he provided the unbiased coverage that allowed Republicans in 1994 to dominate both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

In any event, at the rate technology is changing, we may all soon be getting our television signals from dishes the size of thimbles mounted right on our TV.

And who's to say 1,000 channels of rubbish aren't an improvement on the three channels of network television that for years were all the choices most Americans had. Those were the days when TV news was insipidly bland, sitcoms couldn't even show Ozzie and Harriet in a double bed and the three networks monopolized television in ways that would make Bill Gates blush.

Now they even have a pet channel that permits me to imagine myself ringside at Madison Square Garden when they televise the dog show of Westminster Kennel Club.

I'll confess I never miss it because I'm always hoping some pampered dog will repeat the disgrace of the animal who two or three years ago deposited a large and fetid dropping in front of the judges.

Robert Reno is a columnist for Newsday, to which he contributed this comment.