Corpor-Antics: Corporate Nibblings at our Quality of Life

With our attention on the big problems corporate greed has created in our country—the gambled-away economy, massive unemployment, a healthcare system run by people who couldn’t care less about our health—it’s easy to miss the smaller, subtler little inconveniences and annoyances visited upon the American people by that same corporate avarice; the Corpor-Antics that make us feel less like citizens of the greatest country in the world, and more like marks in a perpetual con game.

But First…a Word From Our Sponsor

Americans don’t watch TV shows anymore. We watch TV commercials and promos with 5 to 8-minute segments of the actual show thrown in every now and then for entertainment value. If you happen to miss any of the commercials, don’t worry, the networks have reserved the lower third of the screen for advertisers and the networks themselves to hawk products and coming attractions in “embedded crawls” while the actual TV show is in progress. There’s nothing quite so enjoyable and conducive to the television viewing experience as some damned thing wiggling and waving at you beneath the TV show your trying to watch.

If TV Guide were honest, the listing would read:

Thursday, 8:00-9:00 PM on ABC:

Geico

Ford

Cheerios

Target

Addiction Centers of America

And bits of “CSI: NY” on the top two-thirds of your screen every seven minutes.

By the time you get back to the program—after 5, 6, 7 commercials crammed into one single break—you’ve forgotten the story line and the characters’ names. But it doesn’t matter because you are now deaf from the sheer “Marshal Stack” volume of the ads. As you try to read the actor’s lips in a futile attempt to get back into the story, your mind begins to wander back to how things were before corporations became king.

Commercial TV hasn’t always been this way. There used to be an implied, symbiotic agreement between viewers, advertisers and the networks: If you program good shows, we will watch them and we will tolerate a reasonable number of commercial breaks so you can make enough money to program the shows and make a profit.

In a weird way, the arrangement represented a kind of mutual respect between all parties.

In the 60s, a typical hour-long TV show consisted of 52 minutes of actual show with eight minutes reserved for commercials and promos. Generally, they would run two minutes of ads every 15 minutes or so.

Occasionally, the networks would cheat a little by cramming one or two extra ads into the hour, but that was OK because viewers (especially my dad) violated the unwritten agreement as well by leaving the room to go to the bathroom or grab something to eat during one or two of the commercials.

For the most part, however, it was a win-win situation.  We got to see our shows, and the corporations got to sell us stuff. Considering that the airwaves used by the networks to broadcast their programs were given to them for free by the American people, it was also one heck of a deal for the networks.

Today, with the average hour-long program containing 16-21 minutes of ads, the odds are 1-in-3 that you’ll be watching something other than “CSI: NY” when you’re watching “CSI: NY.”

Hell, you could build a bathroom during one of today’s commercial breaks.

This is television: the major interface between corporations and the public, where you’d think they would at least try to show their best, least avaricious face. But no, by the time you’ve watched a couple TV shows (including the end credits which have been squashed over to one side or run at mach 3 to make room for even more commercials), you feel like you’ve been walking down a never-ending carnival midway with the loudest carnie barkers in the world hollering about low insurance rates, full-bodied beer and “Low T.”

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