A long time ago in a blog not so far away, I wrote about a future where NBC became PBS 3.
Well, let’s take that thought and look at it.
NBC, for non-Americans, is the National Broadcasting Company. Despite the name, it has never been owned or operated by the US government or any of its constituent states or territories. (It might seem that way if you’ve ever visited New York City, but hand-to-god, it’s always been private.)
NBC, however, has pretty much acted like it was the US’s public-service broadcaster. How long has NBC been around? Practically since Broadcasting year dot. In fact, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC-US) owes its existence to a court order demanding that NBC spin off some of its radio stations.
I think there’s a bit of an affection amongst Americans towards the Peacock. It used to be that when you travelled overseas, especially to Europe, you’d see CNN and NBC programming which would allow you to keep in step with what was going on at home.
I’m from the last generation that can really remember NBC ruling the ratings, particularly on Thursday nights where the Cosby Show begat Seinfeld which begat Friends which begat…nothing.
And now, nbc (intentional lower case) has become hammered and nailed to fourth place, behind FOX! The network that most nights only has 2 hours of network programming. Let’s not even get started with the Olympics coverage which is managing to be successful despite an ever growing animosity towards it.
Well, I’d like to offer a suggestion to nbc’s woes.
I know, scary thought, but GM & Chrysler survived it and are now turning a profit, perhaps nationalising might make us love the Peacock again.
Television is such a part of what it is to be American, that it seems only right that we shouldn’t allow one of the big names to be a whipping boy. We allow television programming into our homes to become a de facto member of the family, so by extension, why don’t actually make it a family member?
Ah, but if nbc is making money, then why does it need saving?
Well, NBC Universal is making money, because it’s a gigantic behemoth that incorporates theme parks, movies, and cable channels (it’s even owned by a cable provider–Comcast). nbc, the network, not so much.
So, what I’m suggesting is that we spin off NBCU‘s charity case network from the behemoth and let it get back to basics.
Right, now that NBC is on its own, let’s take a look at what we’ve got: A still prestigious name in the world of news and sports with one of the biggest networks of stations in the entire country, but with a programming that while often critically-lauded, seems to still keep it in 4th place.
Here’s the fun part.
If NBC becomes the public-service broadcaster of the US, then into its corporate laws and regulations could be written that ratings aren’t the determining factor, relevance is.
Use that wide nationwide network to go canvass the opinion of the American public. Instead of a group of LA-based executives trying to find out what will play in Peoria, why not let Peoria into the programming room from the very beginning. You might very well be surprised.
What about the PBS stations?
I’m so glad you asked that question: PBS is its own animal and it’s also NOT really a public-service broadcaster. It’s more like community access television with better equipment, with all the sponsorship ads, it’s also beginning to look more like a highbrow commercial network rather than the non-profit collective that it is supposed to be.
Here in Australia, there are two public service television networks: The ABC (note the article), or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and SBS, or the Special Broadcasting Corporation. They manage to get along like peas in a pod of 25 million plus people, surely NBC & PBS could in a pod ten times that size.
Let’s give PBS the ability to run commercials and let’s kick the commercials off NBC.
This will have the added benefit of ending the much-dreaded PBS pledge drive, because all that commercial revenue now goes into keeping the network running and all the excess goes back to the government which could lead to tax breaks.
As for NBC, let’s start by funding it with a levy across all television networks, stations, and cable operators. They might cry fowl at first, but NBC programming now is “the nation’s programming” and they get it for free, perhaps not first, but they get news and sport coverage past and present for free, because they would’ve paid for it.
Plus, a leaner NBC, more focused on providing programming, won’t be so obsessed with haemorrhaging money for actual content.
Just a modest proposal.
- How NBC’s Olympics Strategy Became a New Media Fiasco (readwriteweb.com)
- NBC Says They Cut Memorial Tribute To Save Time, But They Replaced It With Something Two Minutes Longer [Video] (deadspin.com)
- NBC, National Broadcasting Catastrophe (sportsvillecity.wordpress.com)
- The NBC (National Broadcasting Company) and the Balts (shaan.typepad.com)
- NBC’s Olympics Coverage, What Went Wrong (mashable.com)
- Public broadcasting funding under scrutiny (uloop.com)
- NBC: We Are Giving You An Awesome Olympics, And We Don’t Care If You Don’t Like It [Nbc] (deadspin.com)
- Fake, Jingoistic, And Stupid: Gymnastics Coverage Is The Worst Part Of NBC’s Olympics (deadspin.com)
- Clip of the Morning: NBC Runs Promo of Missy Franklin Winning Her First Gold Medal Before the Race Was Aired (complex.com)
- NBC: Super Bowl Will Be Chockablock With Car Ads (newcarquotesonline.com)