Thursday , May 23 2024
It strikes me the time has come to fight for the little guy... or the big guy, whoever's right.

The Time for Watchdog Television Has Come… Again

On last night's episode of Screen Time, Erin Medley and I discussed – in a terribly joking fashion – the notion that some sort of new version of Fight Back! with David Horowitz ought to exist (the Fight Back! website says that they're working on one now, but that doesn't mean we can't talk more about the idea for such a show in general). It's an idea I'd like to expand on here today, in a far less joking fashion.

For those of you not in the know, Fight Back! with David Horowitz was a brilliant program where they tried their best to help consumers out. Whether someone was having trouble with the phone company, a car company, or simply wanted to know whether an advertisement for a product was actually truthful, Fight Back did its level best to find out.

The example I best remember is them testing padlocks. An advertisement for a padlock existed where they shot a padlock with a gun to show everyone how it stayed locked even after the bullet pierced it. As I recall, they tried it out themselves and tried out other padlocks to see if they could withstand a bullet as well. It was fun, it was informative, and about 20 years later I still remember it. What more could anyone want from a television show?

This type of reporting is still prevalent today. Local news at television stations all over the country currently do this sort of reporting – helping someone get money back from a contractor or a supermarket, that kind of thing. However, I honestly believe that it ought to be done on a national level on a regular basis (news magazines do occasionally do stories along these lines). Even with the advent of the Internet and customer reviews being available for anything and everything, there are still a ton of scams and falsities out there.

Raise your hand if you've ever had trouble with the post office. The cable company? Your wireless carrier? Local phone? Internet? National chain store?

I'd place odds that you raised your hand to at least one of those, and if you didn't you instantly thought to yourself, "How about such and such, they're always a problem." Of course, the vast majority of us simply don't have the time and energy to put into making a company do the right thing. Some companies are of course wonderful and wonderfully efficient, doing anything and everything they can for their consumers. Other companies – and I'm not suggesting it's through malice – don't. A spotlight needs to be shone on these companies to help consumers who have been wronged… or to point out when the companies have done the exact right thing.

Quite obviously, there are other "watchdog" choices out there already, including the widely read Consumer Reports. I, however, being a TV person, want to see it on television, and not on a small cable channel either. No, I'm thinking big for this, I'm thinking national, and I'm thinking PBS. Think about it, a show that focuses on consumers having troubles could easily have trouble getting advertisers. PBS doesn't need advertisers in the traditional manner. PBS news shows have an investigative air about them which is not uniformly present elsewhere; they seem like the right choice.

A half-hour a week focusing on consumers who have been wronged by companies, companies who have been wronged by consumers, and experts helping us all figure out the exact right way to say, "Actually, I'd really like to talk to your supervisor's supervisor's supervisor." The program wouldn't go out to attack anyone, simply to investigate the truth of an issue and make sure an appropriate solution is implemented. It's the Better Business Bureau, but on television.

I'm thinking Internet petition — who's with me?

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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