If I were contemplating a visit to the southwestern coast of Turkey, I might not find a documentary on Bodrum, but I could find sections from movies about wooden-ship building, nighttime fishing, underwater antiquities, baba ghanouj, and Oriental carpets from such sources as National Geographic, PBS, the BBC, and hundreds of others. These pieces could be woven together to form a story that would suit my specific need. The result would not likely win an Oscar for best documentary, but that's not the point.
VOD can provide a new life for documentary films, even the dreaded infomercial. Digital TV agents will edit movies on the fly, much like a professor assembling an anthology using chapters from different books and articles from different magazines. Copyright lawyers, fasten your seat belts.
On the Net each person can be an unlicensed TV station. Three and a half million camcorders were sold in the United States during 1993. Every home movie won't be a prime-time experience (thank God). But we can now think of mass media as a great deal more than high production value, professional TV.
Telecommunications executives understand the need for broadband into the home. They cannot fathom the need for a channel of similar capacity in the reverse direction. This asymmetry is justified by experience with interactive computer services that are sometimes offered with higher bandwidth going to you and lower bandwidth coming back from you. This is because, for example, most of us type much more slowly than we read, and recognize images much faster than we can draw them.
This asymmetry does not exist with video services. The channel needs to be two-way. An obvious example is teleconferencing, which will become a particularly valuable consumer medium for grandparents or, in divorced families, for the parent who does not have custody of the children.
That's live video. Consider "dead" video. In the near future, individuals will be able to run electronic video services in the same way that fifty-seven thousand Americans run computer bulletin boards today. That's a television landscape of the future that is starting to look like the Internet, populated by small information producers. In a few years you can learn how to make couscous from Julia Child or a Moroccan housewife. You can discover wines with Robert Parker or a Burgundian vintner.
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