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Ughh! In a Pro-A.D.D. World, Important Stuff Reduced to a Crawl

In addition to helping accelerate the demise of that cesspool of tired music and cyberjocks known as the Golden Age of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 Radio, satellite radio also creates a different perception of the cable news channels which simulcast their audio signal – a perception that is definitely welcome.

While listening to a radio news broadcast, one is spared the distractions that have been tacked onto television broadcasts, namely the flashy graphics and the crawl at the bottom of the TV screen. Graphics with lots of bright colors and unnecessary animation are a major distraction from the audio message; the audio – the backbone of the story becomes background noise. And the crawl – a feature that was once reserved for the most important breaking news stories, has been reduced to replaying one and two-sentence stories that are unrelated to the main story.

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This bombardment of visual – and occasional sound — effects on news programs and public sporting events is a symptom of what may be proof that there is an attempt to perpetuate a pro-ADD culture. If the previously-mentioned examples of news and sports were hot dogs, their related distractions would be the miscellaneous animal parts that had been thrown-in as filler material.

While attending a Chicago Bulls game about three years ago, I’d learned that trying to pay attention to the beginning of the game proved to be a challenge. During those first few minutes, the game played second fiddle to a string of short song samples, wacky sound effects, and all sorts of miscellaneous animated crap on the scoreboard. I can’t remember if the ribbon boards had been installed at this time, since the existing distractions – oh, and the multitude of competing advertisements — had resulted in sensory overload.

Hacking-up a song in the name of wearing out the most memorable parts is a personal issue. As someone who believes that songs were recorded to only be heard in their entirety, the thought of playing only a few seconds of a song as bumper music, audio clutter at a sporting event, or even sampled over-and-over in other songs is a waste of time, shows a lack of creativity and defeats the purpose of recording a complete song.

Also, any sports organization that feels compelled to create a second atmosphere comprised of song samples, “applause-o-meters,” and animated Jumbotron diversions may be sending an underlying message about possible insecurities that the organization’s higher-ups may have about the ability of their primary product to capture the interest of spectators.

There is no secret to the fact that advertisers claim to want to send a memorable-but-brief message about the wares that they are peddling. However, this brief-yet-memorable concept has evolved into a seemingly constant-yet-sloppy delivery of random ramblings and distractions that has been adopted by broadcasters, sports organizations, and anyone else who feels that the only way to keep the attention span of viewers or customers is to distract them. Is throwing out multiple, disorganized messages that are geared for the consumption of short attention spans actually vindicating the practice of maintaining a short attention span?

A former coworker at a business where I’d once worked, who also had liberal leanings, once complained about Ronald Reagan wanting all official messages addressed to him to be no longer than one and one-half pages. There is nothing wrong with trying to simplify a message while staying as factual as possible; the problems surface when multiple, unrelated thoughts pull the receiver’s attention in more than one direction – a serious flaw when attention to detail is necessary.

As for that endangered species known as attention to detail, self-discipline and patience are two qualities necessary for its survival. However, these two qualities are difficult to establish when instant gratification and sensory overload have become the marketing equivalents of entitlement programs for potential consumers.

If a network wants to fluff-up a news story with unnecessary graphics, or if the owners of a baseball team believe that a “kiss-cam” is more interesting than a baseball game, then there should be nothing to stop them from watering-down their products, since we have the ability to find a product that is more deserving of our attention – much like how satellite and Internet radio are replacing homogenized, predictable terrestrial radio stations.

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Chuck Gruenwald

Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for

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