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American TV news networks may claim to embrace the digital age, but this is studio-concocted nonsense.
Exhibiting this fear are executives at "60 Minutes," who offer an audio-only podcast of their weekly newsmagazine. Who wants to listen to "60 Minutes" without seeing their great interviews and footage from the field, or Andy Rooney’s dancing eyebrows? Few people, I suspect, but "60 Minutes" is convinced that providing vodcasts (video podcasts) to news consumers around the world will somehow lead to its ruin.
American sports’ broadcasting is even more miserly. NBC provided a free iPhone app for the 2010 Winter Olympics that offered some events streaming in real time, but blocked streams of this content from people outside the United States.
The Olympics represents the most international assembly on the planet, but NBC made sure iPhone users around the world weren’t part of it. Even more absurd, NBC didn’t give iPhone users outside the U.S. the option of paying for such access. American news networks can’t claim profit motives for such ignorance.
In an even more foolish display of insularity, CBS sold for $10 an iPhone app streaming live games from the 2010 NCAA men’s basketball tournament but, again, fans outside the U.S. were kept in the dark. I don’t have an MBA, but I feel confident that blocking millions of people from purchasing a product is a shortsighted business practice.
ESPN seems to be the only American channel regularly offering live sports content to viewers around the world, and they’re making good money through online subscription fees.
To be fair, there are occasional legal restrictions dictating what sports content American TV networks can steer online, but the simple fact remains that TV news networks in the U.S. are deeply resisting the call to go truly global and mobile, while the rest of the world is warmly responding.
In his book "The Post-American World," journalist Fareed Zakaria wrote that “just as the world is opening up, America is closing down,” which is precisely what American TV networks are doing. “We are becoming suspicious of the very things we have long celebrated,” Zakaria wrote, “free markets, trade, immigration and technological change.”
I’m not arguing that Turkish and German news networks are going to bury CNN and MSNBC, but journalism is wireless and increasingly borderless, and only news organizations that acknowledge this can become the world’s information providers.
The New York Times is the world’s global newspaper. The BBC is the world’s largest and most multilingual newsgathering organization. Non-Americans all over the world access NPR for its diverse global coverage. These outlets are industry leaders because they’ve seized the web’s capabilities for mobile content delivery.
American TV networks, though, are confining themselves into global irrelevance. As the world’s digital news consumers come calling, American TV networks have barred the door.
Justin D. Martin is an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism & Mass Communication at The American University in Cairo. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.