One thing came out loud and clear in President Barack Obama's inaugural address: encouraging Americans to "serve" their country.
This doesn't mean in the traditional ways -- in the armed forces -- but helping people out when a levee breaks and homes are destroyed, or, for the unemployed, volunteering their time.
This kind of message had been delivered before. But in a time of recession it takes on more weight.
That got me thinking. How can those in the TV business "serve" best, for viewers, advertisers, competitors, and new media platforms?
A long time ago, a kids' TV executive talked to me about TV stations being "pigs" -- especially when it came to asking for more than their share of local TV advertising dollars, money that was -- at the time -- always attached to delivering a kids' TV show free to the station.
That's right, I said "free." It was because those kids' TV shows were directly attached to kids'sponsors/license-right holders. Those advertisers most times had little real concern about the quality of those shows; they just wanted their local media dollars placed.
To me, the greed wasn't just with those TV stations. It was everywhere. Now, TV stations owners have found themselves in trouble. TV marketers are under the gun as well, demanding more for their media agency executives.
Who needs to "serve" here? Producers of the multibillion-dollar enterprise "American Idol" have been giving back to those in need -- -- some $50 million for the past couple of years -- with the "Idol Gives Back" program. Is that enough?
The problem is, words like "business," "greed," "philanthropy" and "service" don't easily work together in one seamless thought.
TV writers went on strike looking for better benefits and wages. Actors, in theory want the same. TV marketers may want their share in the coming months -- with lower program prices in the upfront advertising market.
Seems another word goes with "serving": "sacrifice.