Who says YouTube is tacky?

Not Terry Teachout. The drama critic for the Wall Street Journal and all-around cultural guy writes this weekend about the on-demand fine-arts channel he put together out of YouTube, finding an amazing list of often-rare fine-arts performances there (all of which he posted on the sidebar of his blog):

But YouTube, like the other new Web-based media, is a common carrier, a means to whatever ends its millions of users choose, be they good, bad, dumb or ugly. You can use it to watch mindless junk — or some of the greatest classical and jazz musicians of the 20th century. . . .

By posting this list of links, I have, in effect, created a Web-based fine-arts video-on-demand site. The irony is that I did so just as network TV was getting out of the culture business. Not only have PBS and its affiliates cut back sharply on classical music, jazz and dance, but cable channels like A&E and Bravo that used to specialize in the fine arts are now opting instead to show “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” This abdication of cultural responsibility has created an opening for entrepreneurs who grasp the new media’s unrivaled capacity for niche marketing.

Everybody’s a network.

  • Your blog is terrific to read by the way.

    O.K. Lets assume, as you say that everybody is a network. I understand that you are talking about television (not cinema/studios)…or are you talking about both? The converstation is king et cetera. A corollary is that distribution is cheaper and the barriers to entry are lower with digital tech, so leverage shifts to the content producer (or more specifically copyright holder)…what about advertising cost? In the global market increased competition has lowered the cost of production but creative costs (from design, to marketing, to advertising) have gone through the roof. Greater competition means a greater need to diferentiate oneself from the glut… If everyone indeed is a network, will these content producers really reap the benefit of their copyright vis-a-vis the traditional network model? Please elucidate…is the advertising model that works in this scenario dependent on viral marketing? What about sustainable creativity? Doesn’t one need economies of scale to spread risk to maintain creative output et cetera? Won’t media firms (MTV FLUX, YouTube, and MySpace in this case) ultimately reap the benefits of copyright….? Who makes money?

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  • Joe

    I agree with you in some ways. But ONLY the copyright holder can post. I did a short film that was stolen (via hack in my website) and posted. I did NOT authorize it.

    If we assume YouTube is a common carrier (so I can’t sue them) then they must turn over the individual who did post it for prosecution and civil damages. Either my story line could be used or I may not be able to get backing because it is “out” there freely. I don’t have the money to sue but certainly have filed a report with my county prosecutor just in case to cover my bases with paperwork.

  • “Abdication of cultural responsibility”…

    So Terry thinks these channels have a “responsibility?” Who gave them that responsibility? Was it a condition of their carriage with cable companies that they program X amount of fine arts? Methinks not.

    A&E and Bravo are adapting to stay on the dial and stay profitable. A lot of people didn’t know about Bravo until “Queer Eye.” And many of us remember the disaster that was CBS Cable (Some of you will even remember Norman Lear hosting a game show on that channel called “Quiz Kids” interspersed among the high culture).

    And obviously Terry hasn’t heard of Classic Arts Showcase which is carried full or part-time on many cable systems, PBS stations and DISH network — all fine arts, all the time… and all commercial-free.

  • Sarky

    A lot of folks didn’t know homosexuals were people too, until ‘Queer Eye for the Stright Guy’. I know you laugh, but really, I mean it. Talk about cultural influence….

  • I think people who call YouTube “tacky” and look down upon it for that reason are being foolish, to put it kindly.

    It doesn’t take long to find that putting together your own high-brow programming block from your favorite YouTube material gives you a network far less tacky and garish than Fox, which never met a fast-cash exploitation program it didn’t like. It also gives you an advertiser-supported source of programming without the pledge drives of PBS. We could arrive at a point where video consumers no longer have to take the bad with the good.

  • Having read these comments, and then read Jeff’s post regarding his views about TV, I find the discussion very interesting.

    You Tube etc are in my opinion heralding a new era of content consumption – people want what they want, and YouTube lets them get it.

    I must confress my ignorance of copyright issues, but I am not sure that applying the rules that have worked for media for decades can keep being applied to the internet. We need to think up some new ones, or think up new ad revenue channels.

    YouTube lets people engage with exactly what they want to – that is neither tacky nor a revolutionary idea. Give the people what they want.

    And at some point there will be no TV/Internet distinction – convergence is coming.




  • Anthony

    The problem with the “Moral Responsibility” that arts channels have to the viewer is that the viewer makes the calls. If you get channel-destroying ratings for your “Sense and Sensibility-a-thon”, the producers look for something that will get better ratings. The problem isnt what is being put on TV, the problem is what the people want to watch. Only a fool would put something on television that people weren’t interested in.

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