What’s broadcast?

What’s the point of broadcast TV anymore? Eighty-eight percent of Americans receive TV via cable or satellite. And now, of course, there are more ways to get video: the internet, mobile, and soon mobile satellite. Our kids have no idea what the difference between a broadcast and a cable channel is. Soon, they won’t have any idea what the difference between cable and internet TV is. And before you know it, they won’t know the difference between professional and amateur TV.

So do we tear down the broadcast towers? Not yet. But very soon, the cost benefit of owning that license and equipment will fall to nearly nil (one wonders when delivering via wi-fi mesh networks in cities and satelllite in boonies will become more effective and profitable — perhaps even now). Local TV licenses used to be money machines; now they’re shrinking. Viewership for networks of those stations continues to fall year after year, of course. The barrier to entry to making and now distributing TV is gone. Radio is arguably in better shape so long as we drive and satellite and radio-via-phone grow to critical mass, joining the iPod. And the radio business sucks.

What’s the point of broadcast? What’s the power of it? There’s far more perceived value to broadcast — by us older folks — than there is real value anymore. The business and regulatory attention given to broadcast is overblown. So what happens to broadcast? Does it matter?