Unwanted Advertisements: Where Is My Control As a Media Consumer

The little television that I do watch these days is via Hulu instant streaming, either via my computer or the Roku box connected to my television. The ad experience is “personalized;” it frequently asks if the present ad is relevant to me. As much as I want to click “no” to all of them, I force myself not to, choosing the lesser of evils when given the option. Unfortunately, a few advertisements keep repeating, without the option to choose something else or declare it irrelevant. This is extra disconcerting because of the content of these advertisements; there are three that come to mind immediately: 1) a movie trailer for a horror movie, 2) an advertisement for a religion, and 3) one-sided political ads.

Regarding the first, the sights and sounds of the trailer make me so uncomfortable that I have to mute the television and look away. If I happen to misplace the remote for a moment, I am literally nauseated by the sounds. Worse yet, I have small children who occasionally wake up after being put to bed, and come out while I am watching television. The shows that I watch are regular primetime comedies and dramas, yet graphic movie trailers for higher rated films are being aired without my being able to alter them. The last thing I need is for my children to have nightmares because of a television commercial, or myself for that matter. In an age where we seem to have so much control over the media content that we are exposed to, at least as far as the Internet and television are concerned, this is both a frustrating and surprising irritation.

The religious and political ads are equally frustrating, but for different reasons. I consider myself a tolerant person, and am content to “live and let live” for the most part, namely as long as no one is being hurt. That said, I expect the same in kind; I find it frustrating to be preached at by any religion or political party in any way. At least with a real person I can walk away; online I can simply close the browser. Hulu does not have an option to fast forward through commercials, and seems to not give the option to denote an ad as irrelevant unless it is a meaningless product. They are about one-seventh the cost of cable for the same product, more or less, so I know I cannot entirely complain. But still, I am being exposed to, and my children are potentially being exposed to, content that I would rather not have in my home. I can control the entrance of any other controversial content entering my home, but not these advertisements. It strikes me as wrong, perhaps even unethical to a degree.

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