In America we strongly believe in the market. We believe that the market
guarantees that the consumer can get the best possible product selection
from the producers. But, if we examine the media market, this idea creates
some ugly implications. We must realize that for the American commercial
media the paying customer is the advertiser, not the viewer. The viewer
is not the customer; the viewer is the product being purchased by the
customer, the advertisers.
Since the viewer is not the paying customer, quality news and programming
is not the product being produced. The low quality of American media and
biases of American media result from the advertisers being the paying
customers, not the viewers.
We can follow the unsettling implications of the advertiser being the
customer and the viewer being the product. What types of viewers do advertisers
want? They want viewers who are not too distracted by information or entertainment
to pay attention to the commercials. The paying customers of commercial
media, the advertisers, do not want to pay for viewers who are encouraged
to think critically. Critical thinkers quickly spot the misleading nature
of commercials. Advertisers want viewers who are too distracted to readily
spot flaws in the implications of the advertising. This very relationship
between the advertisers and the media puts serious limits on what the
advertisers may allow media to show.
Many claims are made about the bias in media. But one real bias takes
precedence over all other biases. The media may not contradict the claims
and intentions of the paying customers, the advertisers. News and programming
must not present ideas that will cause viewers to question or reject the
claims of the advertisers. The news must not encourage thinking that leads
viewers to question the advertisers. The advertisers, the paying customer,
need the viewers, his product, to be sufficiently uninformed.
The advertiser doesn't just need his audience to be sufficiently uninformed;
he needs his audience to be sufficiently distracted from critical thought.
Thus, shows need to alter the moods of viewers for the sake of the advertisers.
Shows may lull viewers into boredom, titillate the viewers with gossip
and sexual inuendo, or hook the viewers with suspense. All of this irrelevance
serves the same purpose; it lulls the viewer into a non-questioning receptive
state. The paying customer, the advertiser gains the most when his viewers
are distracted from reason. That is what the advertiser is paying for.
Distracted unthinking viewers are what the media must present.
Since the goal of the advertisers is to have distracted non-critical viewers,
advertising by its very nature, lowers the quality of media and imposes
its own biases. According to market theory, if we want quality media we
must not allow the advertiser to be the paying customer. We not allow
non-critical viewers to be the product being sold.