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I just bought a new TV. The old one had a good run, but after the volume got stuck on 63, I decided it was time to replace it. I am now the owner of a new “smart” TV, which promises to deliver streaming multimedia content, games, apps, social media, and Internet browsing. Oh, and TV too. The only problem is that I’m now afraid to use it. You would be too — if you read through the 46-page privacy policy. The amount of data this thing collects is staggering. It logs where, when, how, and for how long you use the TV. It sets tracking cookies and beacons designed to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.” It records “the apps you use, the websites you visit, and how you interact with content.” It ignores “do-not-track” requests as a considered matter of policy.

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We compete very broadly for a share of members’ time and spending, against linear networks, pay-per-view content, DVD watching, other Internet networks, video games, web browsing, magazine reading, video piracy, and much more. Over the coming years, most of these forms of entertainment will improve. Linear networks have mostly exclusive content against each other, and this is increasingly true for Internet networks. Piracy and pay-per-view are the only two competitors that offer a nearly full set of TV show and movie content. We call competitors for entertainment time and spending “competitors-for-time”. We call the narrower set of firms that do bid against us for content “competitors-for-content”. The network that we think is likely to be our biggest long-term competitor-for-content is HBO. In the USA for example, HBO recently won long-term exclusive domestic movie output deals with Universal and Fox. HBO bids against us on many original content projects though is not currently a bidder against us for prior-season television from other networks. HBO has global reach and a strengthening technology capacity. In addition to HBO, there are Amazon Prime Instant Video in the USA and UK, Hulu in the USA, Now TV in the UK, Viaplay in the Nordics, Clarovideo in Latin America, and many cable and broadcast networks in various territories. Amazon and Hulu are spending heavily and commissioning their own original programming, presumably because they see the same exciting big picture for Internet TV that we do. Many consumers will subscribe to multiple services if they each have unique compelling content. Success relative to these competitors-for-content would mean us having substantially larger revenue and therefore sustainably increasing content, tech and marketing spending, leading to further growth, and a virtuous cycle.

[2011] Belen Igarzabal from FLACSO is currently producing an 8-part television series inspired by The Virtual Revolution which will look at the impact of this communications technology on Latin America. She and the production team are traveling to Brazil, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay to explore the issues from a particularly South American perspective: “There’a a lot of research about how the internet is evolving and changing our participation, governments and economics around the world, but nothing about South America. We have particularities: we are a mix of cultures – Aboriginal, Spanish, Portuguese – and that mix makes us different from other parts of the world in terms of how we connect, how the government is involved in connectivity, in education.”

As Doordarshan’s station director in Ahmedabad sees it: “There is no reason at all for Kheda villagers to protest. They are only doing it because of the instinct of possessiveness. Actually, villagers want entertainment.” The protesting villagers of Pij have a different view but whether they will be allowed to air them in the right places is as uncertain as Doordarshan’s programming.

The present democracy in the world that arguably come the closest to match Baudrillard’s theory of the transpolitical is perhaps the Republic of Italy under the Presidency of Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi’s three periods in Office (1994-1995; 2001-2006; and 2008-2011) makes him the longest serving post-war Prime Minister of Italy. Simultaneously, Berlusconi has had an extensive record of criminal allegations directed at him, involving mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges. In spite of being tried in Italian courts in several cases, Berlusconi has not been found guilty, except that of providing a false testimony in 1990. In addition, the many controversies and scandals home and abroad surrounding his presidency have left many foreign political commentators flabbergasted over his seemingly continuous popularity among the Italian voters. Berlusconi is often referred to as an ‘enigma’ or ‘phenomenon’ (cf. Hewitt, 2010). Hence, traditional representative democracy theory seems to struggle to explain the success of an archetypal demagogue like Berlusconi among enlightened and educated voters. Furthermore, Baudrillard’s possibly preferential choice of medium – the television screen – continues to have a unique standing in Italian society. 80 percentage of Italians use it as their main medium of information (Gandini, 2009), and Italy has been relatively slow in updating to Internet based communication. For instance they lag behind the European average in offering its inhabitants Broadband Internet access, partly because of an outdated Italian phone network. There is also a shared understanding that Italy for centuries has been a society of the spectacle (Perniola, 1995), in which imagery has had an unusual penetrative power over the Italian public. For instance, Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi (2000) analysis of Mussolini and the National Fascist Party’s rise to power demonstrates how an aesthetical approach to politics was the vital key behind fascism’s influence.