… and can I watch? No ad- breaks either, thanks… *buys popcorn and waits passively* …has it started yet?

Television should’ve been the great white hope of the 20th Century. The Equaliser. An educational tool of such mass broadcast appeal, such power that in a couple of generations, we all shot up 100 IQ points and solved world hunger and climate ickies.

Instead, we got 6 items on the evening News (thanks Gary!), reruns of Gilligans Island and 3 hours of advertising in 10 hours of programming (thanks Wikipedia).

In other words, over the course of 10 hours, American viewers will see approximately 3 hours of advertisements, twice what they would have seen in the sixties. Furthermore, if that sixties show is rerun today it may be cut by 9 minutes to make room for the extra advertisements (some modern showings of Star Trek exhibit this).

Clay Shirky knows what it’s all about:

Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened–rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before–free time.

And what did we do with that free time?

Well, mostly we spent it watching TV. We did that for decades. We watched I Love Lucy. We watched Gilligan’s Island. We watch Malcolm in the Middle. We watch Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.

Read it, it’s important.

And the next time someone quotes the Cult of the Amateur to you, about how social media is ruining culture, nod wisely and agree: user generated content is user generated crap. Because, we learned from the best. If TV hadn’t taught us to enjoy rubbish, YouTube would be cleverer. If New Idea and Women’s Weekly with their faux articles didn’t out-sell smartypants magazines by oh, 1,000,000 to 1, maybe our blog posts would be better written. And don’t tell me traditional media gave us what we wanted. We accepted and gained a taste for what was shoved down our gobs – a junk food diet of mainstream media with no nutritional value – no wonder we are undisciplined media snackers.

So today, we are taking back the reins. If mainstream media can’t step up and use broadcast channels for good, not evil/inanity, we’ll take control. We’ll educate others in what we believe in. All of it, religion, politics, sex, music – right or wrong, we create what we believe, not just grist from the agency mill, pap from sweatshops of banal television studios.

And… as an encore, we’ll kill television, film it and stick it on YouTube. Just to make the point – every suppressed nation rises against the dictator (and cultural babysitter) eventually. Want some popcorn?

(hat tip: Nic Hodge in Melbourne with his take on Clay’s Cognitive Surplus)