Tv programs are not a physical product. They don't need to be freighted overnight in big trucks to reach their destination. With the help of satellites which have been put into low earth orbit for the specific purpose of relaying television transmissions across the globe, anyone can receive content from any other part of the world.
But with the exception of Movies on Demand, we pretty much still think of TV as a broadcast medium. A TV station decides what we're going to watch and when, and it transmits that pre-determined content through the airwaves at a frequency somewhere between about 50 and 60 Mhz.
Like many, I hate what's on TV. There are times when I'm bored and lacking in enthusiasm when I will sprawl on the couch and watch whatever trash the TV station offers up. Many people prefer to have content chosen for them rather than go to the effort to decide what to watch themselves. This is why radio stations work. Because sometimes having to choose the content involves more thought than the viewer cares to put in.
I'm a lot more picky about what I like to watch than many. I normally prefer content relating to a particular theme that I'm interested in. Right now, it's the day following the Nintendo Wii's launch, and what I'd really love to see is some good documentary footage of the launch events, some first impressions by gamers, and some discussion and debate. But this sort of niche content is too insignificant to be considered for transmission over a broadcast medium, so it gets relegated to some postage-stamp sized blocky video on a website, and the incentive for journalists to cover these stories is greatly reduced.
The other thing that causes TV programs to be regionally restricted is that often, the potential audience for a program diminishes with distance from the geographic area in which it's been produced. Sporting matches such as a small, semi-professional golf tournament from somewhere in Brazil might not be of much interest to many of those outside the local region. But to someone who's a huge fan of the sport, the chance to watch these sort of low-profile preliminary matches might be of massive interest to a few individuals.
Being able to watch content from other countries is of great benefit culturally as well. If you are fascinated by Japanese culture like my wife is, you might enjoy watching their soap operas and variety shows. And let's not forget the HUGE market known as Anime. With the exception of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programme or the SBS network, the chance to watch Japanese animation outside of Japan is very limited. Despite the large potential audience, the nature of pre-determined broadcast TV means that a commercial station in Australia is unlikely to alienate the rest of their audience for the chance to catch 5% of viewers in a late-night time-slot by broadcasting Anime.
There is always going to be a market for broadcast TV, just as there is always going to be a market for broadcast radio, but in this information-rich global world we live in today, broadcast TV simply fails to deliver everything that we desire. If I feel like sitting down and watching some rally driving, but there's no events in progress in Australia, what better way to please me than to offer a taste of rally car events in Africa or South America ? They don't need to be high-profile, big-name races to keep me entertained. Sometimes regionally specific content just isn't necessary when it's the subject matter that we crave, not the local relevance.
And don't get me started on news content. I'm not a massive consumer of TV news, preferring the up-to-the minute global content that I can get via the web or RSS feeds, but when I hear about a particular event happening in China or the Middle East (that doesn't relate specifically to the US-centric war efforts), it would be great to be able to bring up a menu of all the current video content from across the globe relating to the subject and temporarily immerse myself in other countries' points of view. From a journalistic and media transparency perspective, the ability to see the "other side" of a TV story is something we can only dream about. The ability to, upon viewing a news broadcast relating to a contentious subject, to bring up a menu of contrasting viewpoints would be a massive boon to democracy and openness. Political and social debate on issues could only be enhanced by being able to compare and contrast the viewpoints of opposing sides.
We live in a progressive world today, information-wise. But in many ways, our technology has not yet caught up with the mere taste of globalised information resources that the Internet has given us. Media is the most powerful resource we as a society have access to. More than weapons or wars, it is access to information and the knowledge that we possess collectively which shapes the world and defines who we are as people both individually and as a species. I look forward to the future of TV, but right now, change cannot come quickly enough for my liking. Viva La Revolution !