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Monday, April 19, 2021

Are American TV viewers at risk for a TV-less future?

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Some people worry that the rise of fake news — or simply the use of the internet to share inaccurate information with greater ease and reach — has turned civic values into a commodity and diluted their value. But if television continues to have an important role to play, some are wondering what it will be, if it is, over the next few decades.

“TV is not dying,” Charlie Ergen, the chairman of the Dish Network, a wireless infrastructure company, told attendees at the Code Conference in May. “TV is just different today. A bit like automobiles, too. Instead of tanks, there’s a sedan. Now, gasoline is $4 a gallon. But we’ve seen the same phenomenon happen with cars and TVs, and we’ve never had that kind of technological failure like we’re now seeing with video streaming services. We’ve reinvented all of this, so nothing really really changes.”

PBS’ new president and CEO David Royle, speaking at the annual conference, repeated this sentiment. “The scale and scope of this change are truly great,” Royle said, referencing the expansion of social media and YouTube. “At the same time, we are driving an evolution in how we deliver programming that most citizens will find relevant.”

Indeed, there have been no major trends of late that would seem to portend the end of television. Viewership is still strong. Revenue is still substantial. The current controversy around “fake news” shows that Americans, regardless of their politics, are still hungry for reliable news sources.

Yes, there is an industry-wide debate on the future of television, whether cable or satellite or online or streaming. There has been no one-size-fits-all solution. But I have always thought of television as the only medium capable of both producing a higher-quality stream and embedding the most important content in the conversations of the population at large.

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