Fortieth Anniversary of the TV Remote Control
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JIM LEHRER: This remote control thing, Roger, has been important to us, has it not?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: It’s been very important. I don’t know whether it’s created us or gone along with us, but it’s certainly helped to make a nation of surfers who are more remote than in control and a defensive culture that is afraid to be turned off.
JIM LEHRER: What do you mean?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Well, take a look at programming. Do you remember when they used to say on radio, don’t touch that dial? Well, television does that all the time now, no flipping, umm, don’t–there’s a sportscaster who says, “This is coming up soon if you keep it where it is.” The whole idea is that the culture is afraid that the attention span of the American people is so short–it certainly applies to politics and sound bites–that if we don’t grab the attention of the public right away, the public will leave.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Some people would argue that the remote–this remote control gadget, this little piece of, of machinery, has contributed to that, in other words, shorter commercials, shorter sound bites in newscasts, because they want to keep people–I mean, it is a creator as well as a symptom of this short attention span.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: I think that–I think there’s probably some truth to that, but it would be sort of like blaming the telephone for creating phone sex. There has to be some sort of cooperation between the will of the people and the, and the gizmo. I think in this case they do cooperate well. People are, they don’t have a long attention span, and it’s not merely shifting from show to show. It’s–you use the remote control for–it’s obliterating the prior show. You’re not just going somewhere else. You’re destroying somewhere where you’ve been.
JIM LEHRER: And it’s–it’s an act that you have to, you have to consciously do it. And there’s also been studies, Roger, that suggest that men tend to be more surfers than, than women Is that, does that jibe with your experience?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Oh, yeah. I’m sure it jibes with yours too. I think it jibes with the Clintons actually, who’ve spoken about it. Men take to this much more. It’s a much more direct instrument. It’s like a gun. You aim it at something, you click, and there is, there is a reaction. Women don’t ordinarily like weapons, and they certainly have a much more expansive or generous view of the experience. Men really like to go right for the throat.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. It’s amazing how a little thing like that can be, can be as important as it has become.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: It is, indeed.
JIM LEHRER: Roger, thank you very much.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: I thank you, Jim. Good night.