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November 22, 2006

The Power of the Consumer: Viewers and a Public Conscious Vote O.J. Off TV and Shelves

Some people have questioned whether collective intelligence really exists. Some people dispute that the crowds are wise at all. But many people are thankful that public pressure was able to get the News Corporation to cancel the book deal and planned television special for O.J. Simpson, the great piece of speculative writing called If I Did It.

Public pressure, grassroots campaigns...these can be used for good and for bad, and the Internet and other tools have increased the ability people have had to reach companies and voice their displeasure. In this case, even while the O.J. documentary and book may have had decent sales, there was also a lot of damage to reputation for Fox involved, especially as the main network has been able to rehabilitate its legacy of trashy television with some of the most popular and culturally relevant fiction shows on today.

But the O.J. campaign was sure to be a black eye, even if successful. And Rupert Murdoch decided to concede rather than risk losing something more substantial than a little egg on his face.

This was covered by Fox News on Monday, where Murdoch's statement was, "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project."

Part of the issue was local affiliates who refused to air the show, including one of the affiliates back in my home state of Kentucky, in Louisville, who said that he cancelled the show based on his "own moral compass" that was coming into conflict with what the network was sending him. He was one of more than 10 affiliates who had already refused to air the special.

And Broadcasting & Cable had made their own statement editoiralizing against this programming ploy, calling it an "evil sweeps stunt."

The book is also now cancelled, a victim of the case of synergy gone wrong. When a project is in poor taste, it doesn't matter that you can create interesting cross-promotional ties across multiple genres. Tools like synergy are content-neutral, but it can leave an even greater degree of bad taste in viewers'/readers' mouths when bad taste crosses multiple platforms.

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