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Friday, February 08, 2008

Self-Censorship

The reason we can brag about not having state-controlled media is because the state never has to bother with it.

Director Alex Gibney agreed to sell the rights of Taxi to the Discovery Channel because executives convinced him they would “give the film a prominent broadcast.” Now, however, Discovery has dropped its plans to air the documentary because the film is too controversial

....

It’s ironic that Taxi’s content is too “controversial,” considering it depicts real acts perpetrated by the current Bush administration. In an interview with the Center for American Progress, Gibney noted that Americans are excited about dramatizations of torture, such as in the show 24, but uncomfortable “with the reality of torture.”


Yes, and? If it makes Gibney feel any better, chances are that everyone who was ever going to give a shit about this story already knows about it. I certainly recall it, but don't know exactly where it would be in the archives here. [Update: Here.]

But I remain unconvinced that even airing on one of the big three networks during prime-time would motivate anyone. Might interrupt the latest Survivor iteration, or the fake pieties about "change", as if anybody really plans on changing a fuckin' thing.

Still, nicely done, Discovery Channel. Wouldn't want to break up the monotony of chasing monitor lizards and eating grubs, or whatever it is they're about these days. Discovering the bottom of one's own stomach, it seems.

2 comments:

Grace Nearing said...

Why isn't there such a thing as The Documentary Channel (if there is, it's not on my Comcast system)? The archives are enormous, the license/broadcast fees are small compared with Hollywood fare, and the niche marketing opportunities are not inconsiderable.

Heywood J. said...

That's an excellent question; I love documentaries and would definitely subscribe to such a channel.

I suspect it has something to do (reasoning inversely) with the proliferation of shopping and "reality" channels along the people's bandwidths. Empty consumption and fractal pseudo-narratives are where it's at; actually learning something takes patience and effort.

And given the observable self-censorship constraints, it's easy to see where a room full of suits would simply decide that the opportunity cost of the niche market would not offset the hit negative publicity would have on ad revenues.

Used to be that there was no such thing as bad publicity, as long as the name was spelled right, but now that the media conglomerates all have pending legislature somewhere along the line, it's a financial decision.