Pop Culture! [#586]

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Pop Culture! [#586]

The future doesn’t just happen. Well, it kind of does – it’s going to be 2020 one day no matter what we do – but the specific kind of future we get is the result of decisions people make. Remember the NBN? That was going to be the future once, an Australia of high-speed downloads and streaming and interconnectivity. And now? Well, not so much.
The reasons why we don’t get one future instead of another almost never come down to cost; after all, loads of things seem to happen despite the cost, while others never do no matter how cheaply they could be done. It’s more about who’s making money: for example, you only have to take a quick look around to see that running a video store is no longer much of a money-making proposition. They’re still out there if you know where to look, but the days of there being one on every street are long gone. If you get your news from the internet, you’d be blaming this state of affairs on the internet: everyone’s doing streaming and high-speed (pirate) downloads these days, and video stores can’t compete with that.
But hang on a moment – we don’t really have that in Australia, and with the NBN fading away it’s not all that likely we will any time soon. Depending on who you believe, either Rupert Murdoch had the current Federal Government nobble the NBN so streaming wouldn’t become a threat to his Foxtel interests, or … well, none of the other theories are all that plausible really, considering the alternatives to Labour’s NBN model were rubbished by just about everyone with any technical knowhow.
And as for it being too expensive? It doesn’t seem like the current government has actually saved any money by gutting it, considering all the crying poor they’re doing. But the point is, we don’t have an NBN and the person who (probably) stopped it isn’t really selling a rival service to video stores. So why are they all dying out if the internet isn’t to blame? Well, even our rubbish internet is still good enough to provide a handy alternative to leaving the house.
Just as importantly, while online services are also taking down DVDs in the USA, here DVD sales, while not as strong as they once were, are still doing reasonably okay. And as anyone who buys DVDs knows, unless you desperately need to see a new release film or TV series as soon as they come out, discounting rapidly brings the price down to a point where buying is better value than renting. And if you still really want to rent something? A lot of supermarkets and shopping centres now feature those Hoyts DVD rental kiosks where you can rent new releases for a couple of dollars. They’re basically rental vending machines, and like vending machines in a lot of other areas over the years, they’re able to undercut or replace regular stores thanks to their small size and lack of staff.
It’s the worst of both worlds: you still have to leave the house to rent movies, but the stores have still closed and the jobs are still lost. Welcome to the future…
Written by  Anthony Morris