"For now—the 1980s—television is still in its prime time, and hearing the first intimations of mortality." And what will follow TV? More TV, TV that is different and yet not all that different. In this evocative book, Edwin Diamond points out that what we see on television today closely reflects our culture and society and politics and will continue to do so. Because the country is not changing as fast as the technology, Diamond's study of television in its "prime time" is also a glimpse of much of the content of the TV of the future, whether it comes to us over the air, by cable, or by satellite.
Among other topics, Sign Off covers sex on television, the TV preachers of the "electronic church," the way television handled the Iranian hostage crisis, "Full Disclosure" as seen (or not seen) in the media's handling of Nelson Rockefeller s death and Ted Kennedy's reputed "womanizing," "Disco News" and Ted Turner's continuous news, the Three Mile Island reportage, the reign of the young and the white and the male on commercial television, and the twin myths of television's omnipotence and its liberalism.
Although today's network-dominated, "free" television with limited channels will be superseded by cable and satellite transmissions with two-way, viewer-responsive features and add-on computer capabilities that will offer, usually for a fee, 60 to 100 channels precisely aimed at special-interest audiences, the content of TV will not be altered so much as the kinds of in-home services available.
Edwin Diamond relates television to what is happening in other media, as might be expected from a writer who has spent his professional life working on newspapers and magazines in addition to being a commentator on (and about) television.
"Diamond, a former senior editor at Newsweek, is well versed in the workings of the news media in general; he writes expertly and intelligently about television, news in particular. He takes the medium seriously and isn't afraid to defend it when warranted. Best of all, he manages to avoid many of the generalizations endemic to TV criticism... For those of us who care about these powerful communications tools and how they reflect, interpret and shape our society, his findings are noteworthy-and none too comforting."
—Lee Margulies, Los Angeles Times
"Diamond understands journalism and the business of over-the-air broadcasting, cable and satellite, and anyone interested in how this nation will communicate in the decade ahead ought to own this book."