I've just returned from 8 days in Las Vegas where I attended the National Association of Television Program Executives 2007 Conference. What an event it was...part technology forecasting, part media usage/trends discussion platform, and simply part circus. NATPE is a sales event for media programming--historically, the sale of programming to local TV stations. The distribution platforms have changed over the years but it's still an exciting and educational conference. It's also such a marked extreme from some of the other trips I've taken. On the exhibition floor, vendors are pitching their programs with showmanship and real gusto. (That's why I made the circus reference above.)
Also attending NATPE were 30 college professors who had a chance to learn first-hand what's going on with the TV business and 39 college student interns, who likewise received access to an event that's not open to the public.
NATPE is a far cry from many of the development issues I often discuss here. While there are some news and public affairs programs being introduced, most of the programs seek to attract the largest audience share available to enable the broadcasters to sell ads in a commercial marketplace. It's one thing to talk about the need for mass communication as a tool for development but as quality of life improves....as audiences become more sophisticated....their attention moves to entertainment and not development information. And, free content can't be sustained...advertising (versus government funding, receiver license fees, or subscriptions) seems to be the logical method to pay for media content--print, broadcast and online.
I'm happy to report that not just US or Western European media executives attend NATPE. There was a healthy mix from Latin America, China/Asia, Eastern Europe and even a few attendees from Africa.