That Insane Television Advertising
By James Donahue
We noticed that Congress has been trying to do something about a common public complaint
that the sound of television advertisements is blaring at us louder than the regular programming.
That has been a complaint of mine for years. I have always thought that the stations
do this because they know that viewers use the ad breaks to make bathroom calls or maybe dash off to the kitchen to grab a
snack before the programming starts again. I suppose they reason that if we won’t hang around to watch their advertisement
they are going to do their best to make us hear it. After all, they are spending a lot of money to post that ad and try to
get us to buy their product.
Fair enough. I accepted that concept
for years with an understanding that it was the advertisers who were providing us with all of the wonderful television shows
we were allowed to watch, without cost, back in the days before satellite and cable networks came into existence.
The first time a cable television link was introduced to our home I thought nightly
entertainment could not get any better than this. The programming was creative and interesting, we were being introduced to
the concept of full-length movies, and the only downside was those annoying breaks for advertisements were still there. Even though we were being charged a monthly fee for the cable television service,
we also were getting hit by ads. But the ad breaks were usually brief so we put up with them.
I don’t know if anybody has noticed, but lately the advertising breaks have
not only been louder, but they are getting longer and longer. My wife and I discovered that we could make good use of the
mute button on our remote control to stop the noise. But the breaks are so long that we often become distracted in conversation,
answering a telephone call, or doing some other thing of interest that we fail to notice when the programming starts again.
I once counted something like 10 ads, running back-to-back, during a single break.
Missing contemporary programming hasn’t always been a problem. Not only have
the ad breaks gotten longer, but television programming in general has become very bad. It is as if they are feeding a nation
of idiots. Silly shows like cooks in the kitchen, personal visits into the lives of midgets and other odd personalities, talent
shows presenting a lot of people lacking much talent, home video shorts or people doing dangerous things and taking bad falls,
are among the daily fare.
The other programming includes a little bit of news, talking heads pontificating
on current political events of the day, and sports. The sports events range from football to golf and even poker matches.
How anyone can get enthused watching two or more people sitting at a table playing poker or players striking golf balls on
a wide-open field is a mystery to me.
There was some relief from all of this very bad television when the cable companies
began offering “On Demand” movies and HBO programming without advertising breaks. But we soon discovered that
the free On Demand films and shows were mostly older, out-of-date flicks that we had either watched or were not interested
in wasting our time watching. To get the good stuff, we had to agree to have an extra charge, sometimes up to eight dollars
a film, tacked onto our monthly bill. That can really add up if you buy a few movies every week.
What I cannot understand about all of this advertising that is constantly in our
faces, not only on television but just about everywhere we go, is that most Americans are either living from paycheck to paycheck,
out of work, and living in the street. Consequently few of us are capable of buying all of the costly products in those ads.
It isn’t toothpaste or deodorant that they are peddling anymore. Now it is new high end cars, jewelry, clothing and
We are staying home watching television because we can’t afford to go out to
a restaurant for a meal and maybe catch a movie at the local theater for a night out. Those were things we did when times
were good, we had good jobs and a little spare change jingling in our pockets. Today most of us just want to pay make the regular house payment, keep the lights on and a little food on the table.