In a world where information travels faster and more cohesively than at any time in human history, broadcast television still clings on like a relic from another time. Like a special bus service to a ghost town, there are still television channels that put out certain shows at certain times while the rest of the world is happy to watch, listen to, read and interact with the vastly more diverse array of content available online.
The worst part of the matter is that multiple governments around the world waste literally billions in tax payer money in subsidising, licensing and regulating broadcast television even though such technology needn’t even exist. It has outlived its purpose at literally every level.
There is no point in maintaining broadcast television in an age where broadband, 4G and ultimately 5G will be able to transmit literally anything and everything one wants to see at 4K video quality. In the near future 5G will also be able to deliver 8K video to modern monitors. Therefore, at the dawn of the 5G revolution which may even make broadband obsolete, it is time for governments to cease funding and regulating the airwaves. In countries like the United States, this means abolishing the FCC and ending all federal support to broadcast regulatory mechanisms. In Britain for example, this would mean ending the BBC licence fee, shutting down the already obsolete Ofcom regulator and selling off the BBC’s assets so that they can be purchased and used by those who wish to produce online content.
For major production companies that are currently making various television programmes, the actual production techniques will not change. All that will change is that instead of broadcasting the shows over the air, they will simply be put out on various websites, social media services and video platforms like YouTube (to name but one). The content will remain the same but the method of distribution will simply modernise, just as was the case when in many countries analogue broadcasting was replaced with digital broadcasting. Even now, just about every broadcaster also puts their content online. Much of it is even streamed at HD quality in real time. As such, the shift will not be a burden on those who will themselves save money by not having to deal with broadcasting equipment or licensing.
In terms of news distribution, democracy would be incredibly strengthened by such a change. At present, public broadcasters arrogantly assume that they have more credibility than strictly online sources due to the fact that their primary medium is one that predates the internet. Forgetting the fact that people watch programmes originally aired on television online in the same manner in which they view context produced explicitly for the internet, the social weight that news television broadcasters have assigned themselves is anti-democratic because it presupposes that the inherent biases on several broadcasters is somehow objective while the inherent biases among thousands of richly diverse online platforms are somehow all “fake” or of low quality.
By levelling the playing field and having all content delivered online, the unhealthy psychological schism between the airwaves and the world wide web would be ended. This would not only save money but would help to end the anti-democratic elitism associated with broadcast media.
With the arrival of 5G technology around the corner, it is high time to begin dismantling traditional broadcast infrastructure and instead to invest the money elsewhere. The only reasonable argument against this would be that certain older people would be disadvantaged. Here too there is a clear solution. One could sell or even give away certain integrated computer/monitor packages pre-loaded with easy to use software that makes accessing video content as basic as changing the channels on a modern television. This would be an ethical and simple way to help senior citizens deal with this minor change to their leisure time.
It is time for the information horse and carriage that is television to give way to the supercar that is 5G powered web based services. It is high time to look to the future in a way that is both cost effective and pro-democracy.