Techno-geeks call it "crowdsourcing." But I prefer the old school term: "asking a good question." • So instead of finding the answer myself, I asked my 4,200 closest Facebook buddies and the 1,916 people following me on Twitter: What are the five things you would fix on TV right now? • What I got was an outpouring of passion and cranky-pants pickiness that convinced me the only thing people love more than watching TV is complaining about it. • Some of the best stuff is below; let's keep the conversation going on the blog (blogs.tampabay.com/media), Facebook (Facebook.com/Deggans) or Twitter (@Deggans).
Separate news from opinion: Several folks fondly recalled the days when some cable TV news channels weren't political propaganda machines and CNN Headline News lived up to its name all the time. Thanks to the firehose of information the Internet brings us each day, viewers need honest news brokers to cut through it, not opportunistic gasbags who exploit it and make things worse.
CNN anchor Ali Velshi sees a new conversation: Velshi, who e-mailed me through a CNN publicist after seeing the Facebook message, wrote: "I need to get great at keeping my viewer connected to ideas they otherwise don't have the time to read about, concepts they don't have the time to debate, and trends they don't have the time to see developing. I need to enrich them more than I need to entertain them, but if we both (my viewer and I) can kick back and have a laugh from time to time, that's perfect, too. … It's not about fixing TV, to me. It's about a different viewer and a different product and a different relationship."
, Borowitz speaks: There's no classifying what humor genius Andy Borowitz comes up with, so I'll just reprint his Facebook message here. "1. Permanent ban on people named 'Ryan' and 'Seacrest' 2. Crossover episode between Snuggie and Slanket commercials 3. CSI: Shaker Heights 4. New reality show: 'Trading Medications' 5. Every American citizen gets own late night talk show."
A la Carte cable channels: Nobody's buying the cable companies' contention that forcing viewers to buy channels in groups is cheaper than paying individually for the 10 or 12 that you watch most often.
Enough with the graphics already: ABC's decision to cover up parts of the screen in a key Lost scene with a countdown clock to V's return was the last straw for some TV fans. Graphics — including those annoying USA commercial — have gone too far. "I remember watching a report on CNN about baby conjoined twins … and the anchor had to ask, on air, for the graphics to come off the screen because they covered up the girls!" wrote one Facebook friend.
Respect program schedules: Fox almost seems to thumb its nose at fans who get upset when American Idol runs long, forcing viewers to extend recording time on their DVRs or risk missing important developments. The network may enjoy keeping viewers from recording other stuff by refusing to schedule its overruns, but customers are fed up. If Saturday Night Live can conclude just before 1 a.m., Idol can hit its scheduled end time, too.
Volume: If industry geniuses can make a TV that broadcasts in three dimensions, they can cut down the volume of commercials and bring levels closer to the entertainment programming. Don't make us sic Congress on you.
Disclose payments connected to news stories: We only know ABC paid murder suspect Casey Anthony $200,000 because her lawyer was eventually forced to admit it in open court. Such "licensing fees" for photos and video have quickly become a backhanded way to pay for interviews. Either stop it or disclose it.
Preserve free TV/lower the cost of the paid stuff: Last year, the average cable TV bill was pegged at $71, as industry experts grow more convinced the networks are about to dump affiliate broadcast stations and go cable only. Quality, relatively free TV is an important American tradition. Let's preserve it.