What would Peter do?

Liz Smith is reporting that many ABC News employees have switched their blue “Never Never Ever Give Up” rubber bracelets to a new lighter blue model with the inscription, “What Would Peter Do?”

This caught my attention, not because of its worshipful nature (à la “What would Jesus do?”), but because it so beautifully reflects the mood in the industry right now — a longing for the days when everything was predictable and (seemingly) safe. That is certainly not the case today.

In the last week, 24 television stations — and I assume around 2,000 people — learned that they’re being sold. On Monday, Emmis Communications reported it was selling nine of its 16 stations for $681 million to LIN TV, Gray Television, and Journal Broadcast Group. And yesterday, Raycom Media announced it was buying Liberty Corporation’s 15 middle and small-market stations.

Writing in Media Daily News, Wayne Friedman noted that these deals are taking place in a time of diminishing spot sales.

A slow-moving station sales market has been blamed on the weakening local TV advertising sales marketplace.
In several of the markets affected, the buyers of these stations already own a station, and the FCC will waive its rules that used to prohibit such. Staffs will be combined, which will mean greater efficiencies, which will mean people out of work. You only have to look as far as the radio industry to see what’s ahead for local television.

To some, this may appear to be the apocalypse, but I view it as both the natural maturation of a high-margin business and a time of unprecedented creativity, as we evolve from a Media 1.0 world to Media 2.0. There has never been a time like this in history, and if you aren’t excited, you’re not really paying attention.

We all need to get out of the past, and that’s why these bracelets are so meaningful. Conjuring the ghost of Peter Jennings may seem noble and all that, but the truth is that his memory is representative of something bigger — something we’d all do well to let rest in peace.


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