The Anti-bug Manifesto Or: A Bulletproof Three Roint Rebuttal to Permanent Network Logo Usage

Last revised 12/6/00 - Spelling fix.

Point #1 - Needless Identification

Most of the reasons the networks give for the use of bugs are variations on a single theme: for station identification in an increasingly crowded television market. Because there are so many channels and so many confused viewers, the permanent ID bug is needed to help the viewer distinguish one channel from the many others.

This is the prevailing wisdom of the networks, but this is completely unnecessary and insulting.

Really, what percentage of viewers are constantly confused about what channel they are watching and need a permanent logo? We doubt anyone has contacted a network to say how much they like the logos, so we don't know why this practice continues, and is growing. We assume the vast majoity of viewers are just simply complacent about the use of logos. Certainly there are some very stupid TV viewers out there, but that doesn't mean that everyone else should have to suffer for the lowest common denominator.

Everyone with a television has something that shows him/her what channel or channel number they are watching -- whether it's the cable box, VCR or the TV. When this channel number is used with magazines like TV Guide, Cable Guide (available by subscription from your cable company), or at the very least a list of channels in your cable bill, you can find out what channel you're watching. If this proves to be too hard, many new cable and all digital sattelite boxes have a "Display" function on thier remote controls which brings up an on screen menu that tells you what channel number and network you're watching, and it even shows the channel logo. Most new televisions can be programmed to do this.

It's really not very hard to figure out what channel you're watching if you try. It ain't rocket science, folks. To have the television networks simply assume you need this help is insulting to those of us who have mastered this task.

Point #2 - Aesthetics

Ultimately, the constant use of the ID logo is a terribly unsightly and unwanted blemish that spoils the screen composition. This is especially true when used on sitcoms, drama shows, or movies because the people who produce these programs took great care in designing the look and composition of the total picture.

For years the television industry has struggled with the image of being inferior to the motion picture industry. The small cathode-ray tube in your house could never compare to the majesty of the big silver screen. Today, the production value of most all TV shows have never been higher, but the networks insist on ruining the picture quality with an unsightly bug.

There was such a stink made abhout the colorization of B&W movies a few years ago (by people like Martin Scorsese and Steven Sielberg) that it seems odd that no producers, directors, or show creators have publicly complained about permanent ID bugs. One would think that someone like Chris Carter ("X-Files, Millennium") would be so angry at FOX for leaving its logo on all the time. The X-Files and Millennium are such dark shows (both figuratively and literally) that the FOX logo stands out like a sore thumb.

If you're still reading this and are having trouble understanding the big deal made of a little bug, for illustration purposes we'll describe a scene you might find on the X-Files. Let's say Mulder is in a dark place like an abandoned mine tunnel tracking down some paranormal creature (a familiar situation on the X-FIles). As he cautiously walks through the tunnel he holds his gun in one hand, and in the other a flashlight. The only light is that of Mulders' flashlight, and it begins to fail. As Mulder struggles with the flashlight we can hear the creature getting closer. Mulder frantically shakes annd hits the side of the flashlight in an attempt to fix it. The light blinks a couple of times and goes out. Mulder is plunged into total darkness. We then hear the inhuman howl of the creature, and it sounds as though it's right next to Mulder.

In the scene depicted above, the dark is very important to the suspense of the scene. When Mulder is walking in the tunnel we should only be able to see what's in the beam of his flashlight, but with the FOX bug on our screen our focus is pulled away from Mulder. When the flashlight fails, the darkness should be all consuming, but this is ruined by the FOX bug glowing like a beacon in the corner of the frame. The darkness is diluted and is made less threatening by the use of the bug. This ultimately weakens the overall impaxt of the show.

There once was a "Jeers" in TV Guide a few years ago about the use of "ID bugs", but not much more has been written about it. [Transcribers note: This was written long before the recent Jeer reference on the top-level obnoxicons page.] The most disturbing thing about ths whole bug thing is the lask of criticism coming from the creative community. After FOX put up their bug, a Simpsons "couch gag" (you know, the little joke at the end of the opening credits) showed Homer ripping the FOX lbug out of the corner, throwing it to the ground, and the rest of the family angrily stomping on it. So we at least know that Matt Groening doesn't like the bug, but other than that we haven't heard a peep from anyone else in the industry.

Is the use of the ID bug an advancement in television? New movie theaters across the counrty are installing bigger screens, deluxe sound systems, and stadium-style seating to improve the movie-going experence. But what are the networks doing? They're cheapening and degrading the TV image with constant logo use. With the promise of HDTV cooming in the near future, what good will a higher screen resolution do if there is sriill an ugly permanent logo in the lurking corner? Hopefully some future technology will give viewers the ability to erase the bugs. If not, the new wide screens will simply give the networks more room for bigger logos.

Point #3 - Possible Damage

But aside from all the visual arguments, there is another very concrete reason why the TV logo bugs should be banned. They can "burn-in" their image onto a TV screen, especially rear-projection TVs, as most user manuals of these models warn. If a channel with a logo is left on long enough thie can PERMANENTLY ruin your TV set (which is potential grounds for a lawsuit). Does Ralph Nader know about this yet?

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