COM22: Ass 2

Template Essay Plan


Essay question: Illustrate how “the tyranny of digital distance” (as described by Leaver, 2008) contributes to piracy, particularly with illegal downloading of television shows.
Aim / purpose Digital Distance disadvantages users to such an extent that it contributes to piracy and my article gives examples to illustrate this.
Specify limits / scope This paper will be specifically targeting television shows that are illegally downloaded by those suffering digital distance.
Key points for discussion The essay will define digital distance, outline the concerns of piracy for both big business and users, show how television shows differ from other forms of illegal downloading, explore the significant changes to modern television and consider if eliminating digital distance would aid the elimination of piracy.
Summary of Essay argument This essay will show a strong correlation between digital distance and piracy, particularly with the attitude of piraters to illegal downloading of television programmes.
II. BODY (your key paragraphs/sections within your essay)
Point 1

Topic Sentence

“The tyranny of digital distance” is a term still in its infancy but is one likely to become more relevant as the technological revolution continues.
Summary of supporting argument
  • Explain its etymology from “the tyranny of distance” as espoused by Blainey, 1966
  • Explain characteristics as described by Leaver, 2008 including geo-coding, spoiler alerts, the impact of social media on television and delayed television viewing.


Point 2

Topic Sentence

Big business claims to be severely affected by piracy as vociferously as television viewers claim it is their only recourse.
Summary of supporting argument
  • Business believe they have lost $xx due to piracy since 19xx and have taken a firm stance against illegal downloading.
  • Example: Piracy is not a new thing, with companies claiming the cassette tape (and VCR) would close their businesses down.
  • Users now adopt a ‘piracy creed’ that is commonly accepted by those that illegally download that ‘rationalises’ that choice.
  • Example: When given choices, viewers prefer to purchase electronic material from affordable sources (eg Hulu, iTunes etc) but digital distance forces them to become pirates.
Point 3

Topic Sentence

It is important to note that television programmes differ significantly from other forms of illegal downloading because of a perceived viewpoint that these programs are always, and will always, be free.
Summary of supporting argument
  • Music and Movies are seen as things you buy by users, but radio and television have always been free.
  • Example: Even with the advent of paid television/radio channels, these have added to the variety available and not made the original source disappear.
  • Television does not gain its income source in the same way as Movies and Music.
  • Example: Advertising costs are determined by ratings. Viewers without rating boxes do not contribute to this and therefore do not affect payment for a programme. Yet because they still have access to the show without making or affecting payment, it is deemed free.
Point 4 Topic Sentence Just as the Internet underwent a massive paradigm shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 in the mid 2000s, television has also undergone a change in how it’s presented, viewed and used.
Summary of supporting argument
  • The sellers of television advertising need to catch up with the current technology and the change in marketing required.
  • Example: More and more people watch television with ad-skipping features like Tivo or DVR’s and they watch it at a time that suits them, not when the show is broadcast.
  • Television channels give the programmes away for free, so is it really pirating?
  • Example: the programmes are offered for free on Networks at a specific time and are also watched at a time more suitable for a viewer by using other devices. If the person isn’t charged for watching it, nor charged for watching it at a later time, then how can it be considered stealing if someone watches it in another format? Is watching it on ‘catch up tv’ sites also illegal (even though they are provided by the same networks? Is watching a show later with friends on a VCR considered ‘stealing’? If free to air television shows are being ‘stolen’, doesn’t that mean that television sets are illegal paraphernalia for watching stolen goods?
Point 5 Topic Sentence By failing to be progressive, television networks are increasing the digital distance between themselves and their audience, and therefore contributing to the rationale for illegal downloading.
Summary of supporting argument
  • Illegal downloading is particularly prevalent in Australia because of digital distance with American and British television shows.
  • While television networks are aware of the big financial gain from utilising social media and extended internet access for their programs, geo-coding forces many users to download these shows illegally to avoid spoilers or the long wait for it (if ever) to come to Australian televisions.
  • Example: ‘The Big Bang Theory’ uses social media and its website to increase awareness and branding for this series and is very internet savvy. However, if you live in Australia, the showing of latest episodes runs from 6 months to 1 year late (but always advertised as “new”). Dexter is another example of a television show that has excellent internet interaction yet is 18 months to 2 years behind in Australia. Even the daytime soaps suffer, with some being completely unavailable, and others running at least 4 months behind. Channel 9, an Australian television network, ran the soap ‘Days of our Lives’ so far behind because of the Cricket season shown at the same timeslot. They eventually did a ‘catch up’ series in 2004 which ran for one hour that contained a ‘highlight reel’ comprised of four years of episodes. The same occurred with ‘The Young and the Restless’ when they condensed 961 episodes into a one hour episode.
  • Eliminating digital distance and giving new options for viewing television may aid in limiting the amount of piracy occurring. This has been shown in other fields such as music, movies and games. The acceptance of micropayments by sites such as iTunes, Big Fish Games and Netflix for digital products has already shown decreasing numbers of known pirated material and this crossover is likely to flow to other genres.
Restate main points. Make any allusions to further research / direction of topic Whilst research into the effect of digital distance is limited, it is evident that further study is likely to show a strong correlation between piracy and digital distance. The disadvantages of digital distance are numerous and compel those affected to use illegal means to gain access to their shows. It is also obvious that the attitude of television networks toward the paradigm shift that affects modern television-watching habits also hinders their financial constraints without addressing ways to prevent piracy. While it cannot be determined how much piracy would be eliminated if other means of watching television shows were available, it does seem that the majority of users prefer to remain legal where possible. Elimination of digital distance may turn out to be the key to providing a more equitable solution to an ever-increasing trend.



Annotated Bibliography


Doyle, G 2010, ‘From Television to Multi-Platform’, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 431-49.

Doyle’s article specifically targets UK Television Broadcasters and their recent reaction to the affect of convergence on television markets. It is shown that they are utilising a “360 degree” approach in order to generate consumer value as this adds customer loyalty and the ability to circulate the brand via social media and collective intelligence.

This article explains how television has dramatically changed in how it is presented, viewed and used by customers and that it is essential for television networks to adjust to these changes. Particularly new is the way convergence has altered the many devices people can watch television on, and how adjusting to these changes will require economic and strategic plans that aim for ‘hyper-engagement’.

I see this article as providing pertinent information that will assist in formulating my own essay with up-to-date information and examples. It also reiterates the significance of television being viewed as ‘free digital material’.


Hill, CWL 2007, ‘Digital piracy: Causes, consequences, and strategic responses’, Asia Pacific Journal of Management, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 9-25.

Whilst this paper deals with non-p2p illegal downloading, it does disseminate the three main reasons that motivate piracy (moral development, moral intensity and equity theory) and offers a choice of solutions to help combat it.

Particularly pertinent to my paper is the sixth solution which advocates making digital media available for purchase for micropayments globally. It also details specific amounts that big business claims it is losing due to piracy for songs, software and movies. This makes it a good source for my essay and I intend to explore it further.


Leaver, T 2008, ‘Watching Battlestar Galactica in Australia and the Tyranny of Digital Distance’, Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, no. 126, p. 145.

Leaver explains digital distance occurs when the perceived prospect of near-simultaneous worldwide distribution of media fails due to a alleged geographic location and profit. He gives the example of Battlestar Galactica: an internet savvy television sci-fi programme that utilised social media and various websites to brand and connect to its fans. However, if you lived outside of the continental United States, much of this content was was geo-coded and labelled ‘geographically unavailable’; not only alienating fans but also creating an extension of the digital divide – those that have access to this content compared to those that do not. He goes on to list other factors that add to digital distance include spoiler alerts (those that able to view the tv show when it airs in America may not be able to see it until it airs in their geographic location and therefore have to avoid all social media for fear of spoilers), networks may not show the programme in a specific country (almost as if trying to eliminate their global audience), and that Australians are the second largest downloaders of TV programs in the world.

This paper is vital to my essay because it provides the basis upon which the rest of the article is written. It not only explains a cultural shift, but also gives meaningful examples of digital distance and their affect on Australians.


Newman, MZ 2011, ‘Free TV: File-Sharing and the Value of Television’, Television & New Media.

This paper is relevant to my essay because it details how Peer to Peer TV sharers view television programs and illuminates the ethics of piracy. Newman’s article also explains the paradigm shift of modern television and how television has entered a culture of global, cosmopolitan experiences.

 He disects the motive and actions of illegal downloaders to discover their attitudes to file-sharing and determines that television is viewed differently from other formats that are downloaded. He states that 50% of BitTorrent downloads are for television programmes and that, if alternatives were available globally for people to legally purchase digital material, the majority would do so.


Pesce, M 2005, ‘Piracy is good’, New Models for the Distribution of Television Programming.

Pesce’s article succinctly explains how piracy of television shows increases their popularity, enhances their brand appeal and solidifies programme loyalty rather than the opposite as often conjectured. He goes on to explain that consumers have been taught for the last fifty years to expect television to be free and available, and that trying to change those societal rules now is folly. The author believes we need to reverse the way we currently distribute and use television.

Pesce suggests we change how programmes are made and how advertising is utilised. He suggests more use of in-show advertising and ‘animated bugs’ to provide a non-removable advertisement position. He also suggests the removal all the middle-men between television producer and viewer and that the producer releases the programme via the same system that people currently download it (p2p networks). He believes that “so long as a small percentage of the viewing audience watches a hyperdistributed television programme, it is cheaper for advertisers to work with producers, and handle the distribution themselves.” This will result in shows that have a higher ratings will, in fact, support cheaper advertising.

While his solution is a radical departure from more traditional theories posited, the economics does prove its viability and its ability to transform the Australian television industry. I expect this paper to provide some useful data to support my essay.

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