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Brian Evankovich

Skip a Commercial, Go to Jail
By Brian Evankovich
Jan 7, 2004 - 1:07:00 AM

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Seen any good commercials lately?

Every morning when I leave the office after a hard day at work (or night, since I work the late shift), I stop by the front desk to share a few words with Captain of Security Clark Roscoe, who keeps his sharp, CIA-trained eyes on people coming and going, making sure nobody tries to blow up the broadcast facility for which we toil. He accomplishes this task by planting himself in a chair behind a turret-style desk, occasionally looking at a set of television monitors that show him every corner of the building, and watching pretty women exit the elevators.

Lately Clark's been asking me if I've seen any funny commercials, because he has the "All Funny Commercial, All the Time" channel of his cable system, and he's always telling me about the latest laugh-out-loud spot. I don't watch a lot of television (except for TV Land); if the box is on, nine times out of ten it's because I'm watching a video (usually a classic film noir thanks to, the best movie rental outfit ever to exist, because they have videos nobody else has.... and that's a free plug).

I suppose Security Chief Roscoe is entitled to his choice of entertainment, but for the last fifteen years television and radio advertising has become so overblown, so in-your-face, and so LOUD, that my senses have revolted. That's why I like the TiVo box my father has - I can record and watch my favorite shows and zap through the commercials. Heaven.

But if Madison Avenue has anything to say about it, they may be taking it away. Last night I was tickled to death to learn that those brilliant advertising executives on Madison Avenue, who are responsible for television, print, radio, direct-mail, and other forms of advertising, are very upset that people such as you and I are zipping and zapping commercials thanks to systems like TiVo and its competitor, Replay.

They're suing.

Not us, but the TiVo and Replay companies, saying that by allowing viewers to skip commercials, they are aiding and abetting in stealing programming. Wait, let me quote Turner Broadcasting CEO Jamie Kellner, as recently quoted in the trade journal "Cableworld" who said it best: "Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Any time you skip a commercial you're actually stealing the programming."

The lawsuit also claims that TiVo and Replay are violating copyright laws with their commercial-skipping features. The Nightly Business Report on PBS, where I saw this story, tried to speak with Kellner and the lawyers prosecuting the suit, but was unable to reach them.

I hate commercials. Always have. With the advent of pop-ups and spam on the Internet, I hate them even more. Advertisers are right up there with lawyers and used car salesmen. (Network executives and crusading "progressive" journalists aren't any better, but that's another column.)

Skipping spots is great. No more beer commercials, car commercials, shampoo commercials set up like a gang bang video, Carl's-frickin'-Junior commercials, "can you hear me now" cell phone commercials, Macy's two-day sale commercials, or lingerie commercials - wait, those are okay.

To say that I'm involved in programming theft by skipping commercials, and suggesting that I have some sort of responsibility to view those ads, as Mr. Kellner believes, is one of the most ridiculous statements in the history of speech, right up there with, "I didn't inhale."

If skipping commercials is a crime, Madison Avenue will have to round up every single one of us. As punishment, they'll probably lock us in a warehouse and force us to watch the "can you hear me now" guy for the rest of eternity.

Whatever. I got a shotgun. They'll never take me alive.


He's not mad at you, he's mad at the dirt.

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