The Year In Culture: Has the Mainstream Run Dry?

In 2003 TV's ratings went on the blink. Music buyers went missing. Pop-culture audiences divided young from old, red state from blue state. What does mass culture without the masses look like?

Americans under 50, as the cliche goes, were raised by the mass media. And this fall, as grown children sometimes do, some of them began to neglect their mother. On the major broadcast TV networks, ratings among viewers 18 to 49 years old (the group most closely watched by advertisers) were down 8%. The drop-off was even worse among men under 35, the couch potatoes of the future. The rejection was almost poignant. You don't call? You don't write? It would kill you to pick up a remote?

The networks--which stood to lose hundreds of millions of ad dollars--blamed the Nielsen...

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