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Giving Thanks - Broadcasting & Cable

Giving Thanks

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This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for the opportunity to be covering the television industry during one of the most extraordinary and compelling times in its history.

The business is experiencing incredible changes, so much so that it is hard to imagine where you won't be able to watch TV in the future. It is now difficult to size up the medium's hottest trend: Is it the 1-inch cellphone screen or the 60-inch HDTV monitor? The television universe is expanding and changing daily.

TV's technological leap is matched by its content. The old cynical saying about television was that there wasn't enough mediocrity to go around. The more startling truth now is that the quality of television has never been higher. Cable networks—Comedy Central and FX and so many more—are regularly stretching the old conventions of television.

On the broadcast side, Fox's Sunday-night trio of animated sitcoms—The Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad—contains some of the most wickedly funny writing in any medium at any time.

Even in the midst of dreadful events like Hurricane Katrina, we are thankful for television stations like WWL New Orleans, which gave the ultimate definition of serving the public interest. Many stations and cable operators joined forces to become “first informers.”

In Washington, a federal shield law has been introduced in Congress, and a new chief justice at the Supreme Court says he is keeping an open mind about allowing cameras into the highest court in the land.

Kenneth Tomlinson's resignation from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at least starts to get the rotten-egg smell out of the place; maybe now the board will really open the windows and let the public in on the public's TV business.

Certainly, the industry has some formidable obstacles to surmount. The revenues at the Big Three broadcast networks are down 8.3% so far this year. But we don't conclude that the sky is falling; it's just time to rebuild the skyline.

Even in the bad news, there are reasons to be thankful. If Americans are more wary of big media and big government—well, they should be.

The wealth of information and opinion on the Internet, coupled with media miscues and government deception, is creating a population that carefully investigates the quality, reliability and biases of the media around them.

The rise of citizen journalists is healthy for the democracy, even if it means we have to work that much harder around here to keep up with the blogging Joneses.

Still, on this Thanksgiving, we're grateful for the ultimate media critic: the American public.

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