Yesterday evening, I sent the following on Twitter: “BM: If anyone doesn’t need common carriage, it’s you – Go direct…” This is an expansion of that thought.
A few days ago, I published a guest post by Howard Blumenthal of MiND TV on public television and disintermediation. By the standards of this modest blog, it got a lot of attention, including some thoughtful comments. Then I read Elizabeth Jensen’s New York Times piece saying that Bill Moyers had ended his effort to return to PBS with a weekly series because: “PBS has informed us there is no time slot available in which the series could be designated for simultaneous common carriage across the country. …”
I’ve spent 38 of my 41-year career in stations and now in semi-retirement work half-time as executive director of a station organization, so I certainly believe in the value of local stations. And I’ve argued for the power of common carriage in both the station community and as a former PBS board member. But we can’t deny the disintermediation that’s going on all around us on multiple platforms and we need to figure out how to make it work for public media.
There’s a lot of room between denial and embracing, but it seems to me that if anyone could be successful in doing self-distribution – going direct to viewers – it’s Bill Moyers. Unless his proposed show’s content would be fishwrap a few hours later, he has the brand, following, and (probably favorable) demographics to make disintermediated distribution work. Amazon, FORA.tv, Hulu, Netflix, Roku, YouTube and many more are all waiting – not to forget non-common carriage public TV distribution via American Public Television, etc. And a plethora of social media tools can both get the word out and encourage the conversation that Moyers’ programs have always generated.