Thursday, April 27, 2017

Vice News

The Vice News program at 7:30pm on weekdays here on the East Coast has become a must watch show.  It touches on the major news of the day briefly, news that does not need to be repeated to anyone with interest who has a radio, cellphone, television, laptop, or desktop.  Dispensing with that in a few minutes it moves onto well done news segments narrated by young and diverse journalists. That in itself is refreshing, but the choice of stories to cover is often eye opening.  Tonight there was a segment on a disease that is killing bats in enormous numbers, as much as 80% gone in the eastern half of the country. According to the program, bats are a major natural killer of insects that destroy crops.  This disease continues to spread west.  One more bit of information to be concerned about for sure, but information is good.  Unpredictable segments occur most nights, and it is a relief from the DT's dominance, Trump pun intended.

This half hour segment, sometimes maybe just 22 minutes, provides new information most nights. There are no advertisements on HBO of course, so the times when they have less material are still the equivalent of the ever boring network news 22 minutes, that time that has news readers tell viewers what most already know, a summary that is still checked here when convenient, and is concluded with human "interest" stories that provide no information at all.

Around ten years ago a good friend of mine, a particularly focused friend when it came to news of importance and social issues, suggested that the Daily Show was by far the best news program to watch.  That surprised me at the time, but I understood what he was saying.  The standard networks were lame, but PBS still seemed vital and more focused.  Now PBS, due perhaps to funding issues that may soon be exacerbated, is each night a series of panels, often with repeat and predictable guests.  Their best segments are about international news, which is produced by a globally focused network that they interact with or support.  PBS is now watched but often interrupted by the change to HBO after the first half hour.

Problem solved here now.  The second half hour of PBS can now be watched on the public news channel on Long Island at 6:30pm. the first half hour on the Manhattan public news channel at 7pm, and then Vice News at 7:30pm.  That means forfeiting that opportunity to watch Lester Holt, David Muir, and Scott Pelley, each of whom make somewhat more than $5mm a year to read and look good. It is clear now that these programs are to the networks just a cash cow being milked for residual benefits as they replay some of the same news night after night.  On both CBS and NBC, Dr. Dao of the United beating and drag out in the aisle has been seen almost nightly for over a week and a half. He should talk to the Emmy's for a nomination.

Point is that the networks are not investing in their old mainstays, PBS is limited in its financial and message reach, and HBO is forward looking and almost surreptitiously very cool.   Maybe openly.

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