Here's a fun fact.
America -- and basically the entire Western world --subsidizes almost all of its intellectual and cultural life on the back of advertising. The marketplace of stuff pays for the marketplace of ideas. Free speech ain't really free. Advertising pays for it.
As a result, newspapers, magazines radio and TV shows are dirt cheap. Gosh, what a win-win situation for the content consumer!
Most content is basically free.
You may think you're paying for it--but that quarter you pump in the newsstand or the check you send for basic cable is chump change. It's a very small percentage of the real cost of the content you enjoy. You don't pay for content. Content is basically a loss leader. You access content and advertising comes with it. Advertisers pay for the content. What they're really paying for is you--access to your ears, eyeballs and brain. To get that access, advertisers pay for car explosions and George Will's inane baseball references. It's the cost of doing business.
Advertising's paying for the show.
It's naive to assume advertising wouldn't try to control the show.
If Satan picks up the check, Satan's going to tell you what to order.
YOU: Uh, excuse me, Mr. Satan. I don't wanna order the child's plate.
SATAN: You paying for this fucking meal?
SATAN: Then go fuck yourself.
There's a notion floating around that there's a "wall of separation" between advertising and editorial content. There ain't no wall. That's a polite fiction. Everybody knows it's bullshit.
Here's how it works.
If advertisers take out ads, they assume there's a quid pro quo. They figure, in addition to paying for ad space, their money entitles them to cover stories, interviews and favorable coverage.
Advertisers will call you and preemptively try to kill stories that hurt their business interests.
Beyond blunt quid pro quo, advertisers will pressure you to take certain editorial positions. Say, there's a notion that Sarasota is the lovely arts community by the sea. If you (or one of your writers) say it ain't, they'll tar and feather you and ride you out of town on a rail.
This applies at all levels, from shitty tabloid publications to big time Hollywood.
Back in the 1960s, there was something called the Payola scandal. Basically, DJs gave airtime to records in exchange for money and stuff. The world we live in now is so far beyond payola it's sickening. It's all payola.
In the big world of electronic media, TV talk shows are basically ad PR for somebody's latest project disguised as a conversation. TALK SHOWS ARE COMMERCIALS.
LENO: How do you do it, Arnold?
ARNOLD: Well, it's really kind of magical. I become Mister Freeze. It is really the costume that does it. That's my process.
LENO: Look! Wolfgang Puck has a frozen dessert!
Interviews with directors and actors are highly stage managed. You read the byline, you think it's one dude doing the interview. It's a ROOMFUL OF REPORTERS asking a list of pre-approved questions under the prior agreement that the interview subject can vet the quotes -- in other words, rewrite it. These "reporters" are bought off with hotel rooms and baskets of designer goodies.
There's obvious shit like product placement. James Bond drives a fucking Beamer now. Pardonme moneypen, while I check the time on my Rolex watch. But Bond movies don't need product placement. IT'S ALL PRODUCT PLACEMENT for cars, suits, vacation resorts, the whole fucking package of the life we all dream of.
Beyond that, the medium is the message. In America, we don't have a loudspeaker booming YOU ARE WHAT YOU OWN. CONSUME MORE. YOU ARE DEFINED BY THE STUFF YOU BUY. SPEND MONEY TO BECOME SEXY AND DESIRABLE. YOUR BODY IS DECAYING AND REPULSIVE. BUY PRODUCTS TO FIGHT ODOR, FAT AND REPULSIVE SMELLS OR NO ONE WILL HAVE SEX WITH YOU. BUY MANY NICE THINGS THEN THROW THEM AWAY AND BUY MORE, OR NO ONE WILL HAVE SEX WITH YOU. CONSUME MASS QUANTITIES!
They ain't saying it outloud. But they're saying it.
That's the basic message in the Alice in Wonderland world on the other side of the tube. A freaking waitress lives in a 100,000 square foot house the size of an airplane hanger stuffed with gleaming, wonderful shiny objects.
Advertising pays for content.
Ineluctably, our content has turned into advertising.