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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Afghan Campaign Isn't a TV War That Will Keep Renters From Video Stores -- It Will Drive Them There

9 Oct, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Well, we're officially at war now. That's got me thinking back to the PersianGulf War a decade ago, when America was fascinated by grainy, barely distinguishable CNN bombing footage and frightened exchanges from CNNcorrespondents stationed in Iraq as they were ducking under desks.

That war had a pronounced impact on video, siphoning off renters and sellersalike and contributing to a shakedown at retail that may or may not have happened anyway, given the soft economy that after the war would turn into a full-fledged recession.

So far this war is proving itself a lot less interesting. None of the bigfootball games were pre-empted once the shelling began Sunday morning (ourtime), and even the NASCAR races were simply moved from one station to another to accommodate news coverage of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's lengthy press conference, Osama Bin Laden's "live from under a rock" taped video message and snippets of bombing footage as difficult to make out asthat from the Persian Gulf War.

But from the start, our leaders have been warning us this conflict won't be made for TV. It will be a protracted exercise in which much of the action is covert. And covert action, no matter how effective, simply doesn't make for good TV.

As for the overt part, well, it isn't all that scintillating.

In an Associated Press story that came across the wire late yesterday, media critic David Bauder wrote, "Looking at a grainy, green and black picture with a light glowing in the distance from Afghanistan, CNN's Aaron Brownexplained, 'It is not, obviously, a television war.'"

Bauder noted that while CNN and its rival news channels repeatedly showed this less-than-spectacular war footage on Sunday, by Monday its use had tapered down -- despite a new round of attacks -- while broadcast television allbut ignored it.

Describing the footage, Bauder wrote, "There was virtually nothing recognizable. On a handful of occasions, the screen erupted with brief flashes of light... NBC has three cameras equipped with night vision inside Afghanistan, said Erik Sorenson, vice president and general manager of MSNBC. The cable news network showed the green-screened pictures for severalminutes, then backed away from their use."

The Fox News Channel, meanwhile, "occasionally showed pictures, taken from asatellite feed of the Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera, of tracer fire through the black skies of Afghanistan," Bauder wrote. "Fox has night vision cameras en route to the scene but none available yet, said Sharri Berg, vice president of news operations. She didn't think Fox News Channel viewers were missing much. 'You can leave up that picture that looks like the bottom of an aquarium all day,' Berg said, 'but I don't know what that gets you.'"

All of this should come as good news to video retailers worried over the prospects of a lengthy, televised war. The TV cameras may be out there, but the public will not. They'll continue to cocoon and search for an escape fromreality by watching videos.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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