I’ve written previously on these pages about the prolonged ‘future of television’ debate which has been simmering away on the back burner of the technology industry for years. The debate centres around two main arguments:

Firstly, so the argument goes, the advent of on-demand Internet and cable based services renders the traditional ‘channel’ and ‘schedule’ obsolete. Why passively sit in front of a TV or listen to a radio dispensing a schedule when you can seek out exactly what you want, when you want it? In other words, If on demand services are available, why would you want anything else?

Secondly, young people (whatever that means – that let’s take it to mean people of school age) are turning their back on traditional media. The Internet must hold the answers, since this is where they frequent.

Yet TV and radio audiences are still strong, and despite all the online and on demand services people still seem to value them and give them high approval ratings. It wasn’t too long ago I frequently read articles predicting how podcasts and on demand music services would kill off radio. But radio listening seems to be going up. In television, it is certainly true that audiences aren’t what they were: The days of shows getting 20 million-odd viewers on a Saturday night are over, but the point is those days were over long before the Internet – and certainly long before any on-demand services enabling you to watch TV content.

As for young people drifting away from traditional media, well, the argument seems to be that because they are not consuming television and radio today, they never will. This is a pretty weird idea because people’s views, opinions and attitudes change over time. How do we know they won’t ever come back later in life? Some people seem to think that by observing young people today, they are in some way predicting the future: that those behaviours will continue forever.

So I don’t accept these two arguments.

The big question is, why does all this perpetuate?

Part of the reason comes from the fact there is a portion of the technology industry that can’t come to terms with the idea of more than one way of doing something: There is something in the DNA that is focused on technology always bringing about total migration, replacement, and a single solution.

And to be fair it did. At one time. In the 1950s and 1960s say, technology would bring about wholesale replacement of football pitch sized offices of people processing billing or payroll. These were clear migrational changes and they were beyond dispute. But our modern world is different. The way people consume media and entertainment is fragmented. As a result the technologies delivering it are fragmented. People are quite happy with having alternatives, even if this involves including the tried and tested and the ‘traditional’. Having a microwave in your kitchen does not mean a conventional oven is no longer needed. Blu-Ray disks don’t mean the end of cinema. And ‘on demand’ internet services don’t mean the end of the schedule. Far from it.

Like most people, I’m happy with a bit of both please.

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