Current, the bizarre TV channel co-founded by Al Gore, laid off 60 staff last night. Supposedly the hippies in the San Francisco headquarters office are being shoved aside in favor of the bloodsuckers in Los Angeles. But even the survivors better watch their backs, because a company statement makes it sound like they might eventually be replaced by the robots and RSS feeds that fueled Current's awful, awful election-night coverage:
Current’s new programming strategy expands upon its pioneering use of viewer created content to include additional opportunities for participation, creating a far more viewer-influenced network, and further unifies the Company’s online and TV platforms by having each web channel paired with a companion TV show. In addition, these changes enable Current Media to reduce its cost structure, thereby assuring that it will be comfortably profitable in 2009 regardless the depth and length of the recession."
Initially, everyone thought Current was going to use this restructuring as a chance to go in the opposite direction: normal, sane, half-hour shows with linear narrative. It's the only thing that makes sense. Have you ever tried watching the channel? We turned it on once, accidentally, and honest to God the news was being read by some kind of female cyborg. Even the shows with actual humans in them are rendered unwatchable by neon graphics and distracting MTV-style quick cuts and sound effects. It's like a late-1980s vision of what News From The Future would look like. Max Headroom would look perfectly at home.
Why not just lay everyone off, put the money in some kind of investment fund (stocks are cheap! hell, so are bonds!) and fund a restrained menu of actual journalism, to be distributed for free, via YouTube? Who knows, that sort of venture might actually make money someday.