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The Info Gap

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 8, 2005

My friend and colleague David Zurawik has a good piece in today's Baltimore Sun about the differences between American coverage of the London bombings and coverage on the BBC, which was available here on BBC America. You can link to it through the Sun but the site does expect you to register.

It's one of those wish-I'd-done-that stories, but I would have had one problem doing it: I was in the office yesterday and I don't get BBC America there, since the cable is limited to non-digital service and BBC America is on a digital tier. To see it, I would have had to stay home, where I have digital.

That difference makes for a handy reminder that the TV audience faces a lot of potential gaps if viewers are not willing to pay for everything out there. You may read about ''The Sopranos,'' say, but you're not going to see it if you're not paying for HBO. You may have some cable, but are you willing to pay for digital services? Indeed, are you willing (and able) to pay for cable at all?  And if you have a satellite dish service, you could have access to some channels that your local cable company does not carry.

The result is a more fragmented view of television itself, since the show you're watching simply may not be available to your neighbor or office-mate. In some cases, this can lead to sweeping generalizations about the nature of television based on just a limited sampling of what's available. In others, it restricts the dialogues you can have about TV, because you're not sharing a viewing experience with the people you talk to.

  Of course, digital cable isn't the only reason that conversations about TV have become more difficult. Consider, too, the impact of multi-set homes, the availability of home video, the rise of video on the Internet. Yet in all this, there's a big-money issue: To see all that TV has to offer, you have to have a fat wallet. And if you don't, you're being left out of the modern media world.

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