Talk shows such as those I’ve just mentioned were not always so readily available. That’s because for most of television’s sixty year or more history viewers enjoyed much more limited access to programming than what is available today.
The main over-the-air networks have always devoted a few hours on Sunday mornings to talk about what is taking place in the nation’s capital, but, until the last fifteen years or so, there were no other choices. As a result, people who cared about political news would be forced to tune in to the three major networks, if possible… or get their information second-hand from someone who had tuned in.
The truth is that before the explosion of programming took place that now gives subscribers to the services of programming providers access to 150 channels, 200 channels, even 250 channels or more there was a viewing choice that was limited to three national networks, a public television station and perhaps two or three local or regional networks. That was it… there was nothing else.
Moreover, the political discourse that took place on Sunday mornings was generally polite and respectful, even when there were extreme differences of opinion. That is no longer the case.
Times have changed, the American culture has changed… the way that politics is conducted has changed most of all. Today, each party sends out “talking heads” to make its case to the public. And because some networks may have a political bias, the news and information may sound entirely different on one station (or network) than it does on another.
It’s a rough game and it always has been. But it’s fair to say it has never been this rough and television in the 21st century has drawn up battle lines… networks have chosen sides… and the “slugging” has become more ferocious and partisan than at any time in recent or even distant history. There is no telling where this new reality will lead.
However, there can be no denying that, today and probably for years and years to come television has become the battleground for the continuing slug fest that is American politics.