Network News 54, or Network 54, is an American media Megacorporation that broadcasts throughout the NUSA in the Cyberpunk Series. Network 54 has held a monopoly operating on the same frequency across the entire country since 2010, when it amassed control of over 62% of all American broadcasting, and produces news, films, and television shows.
Network News 54 is on Channel 54, although since the Fourth Corporate War their reach into the broadcast markets has been severely curtailed. Despite its name, News 54 offers many diversions in addition to news. Every regional office offers a slightly different schedule to its district, with syndicated series, non-prime-time movies, and independent local news programs. Certain elements of the broadcasting are universal nationwide, such as prime-time series and bi-hourly national and world news shows.
Network News 54 (or Net 54) was born in 1991 as a cable news service similar to the venerable CNN. Known then as CableNews 54, it gave CNN and C-SPAN rough competition, developing a reputation for tough, accurate, hard-hitting journalism. CableNews 54's quality earned it spectacular success, from which it was able to diversify and expand. As a fledgling corporation, CN54 gained control of several smaller cable networks and pioneered the small-scale development of several new broadcasting and production technologies.
The real big break, however, came in 1998 when CN54 bought the ailing NBC from General Electric, hereby expanding its influence from cable to the broadcast airwaves. With this action, CableNews 54 became Network News 54. Under the guidance of a young programming genius named Howard Wong, Net 54 diversified its programming into all varieties of entertainment, becoming the first Mediacorp to exert major control over both the cable and broadcast domains. Although the reputation for outstanding video journalism continued, "News" became an anachronistic word in the title, kept for style only.
This expansion is what really gave Net 54 the resources to compete with dedicated technology corporations in the development of new media tech. Until the NBC buyout, Net 54's tech research and development had been small-scale and largely theoretical. The corporation's broadcast and production facilities had never relied on cutting edge tech as cable and broadcast video had been established long before the corporation's birth. Although such things as first generation HDTV broadcasting and read-write digital video disc production were used, these technologies had been imported from corporations such as Sony, Microtech and Nippon-Gakki. This changed with Net 54's financial maturity. Using profits from the broadcasting, advertising and recording divisions, as well as several other departments, Net 54 financed the creation of a new subsidiary: International Media Technologies (IMT).
IMT was extremely well bankrolled by its parent, giving it unlimited freedom to pursue any developments showing potential. This investment paid off particularly well for Net 54. Three IMT departments in particular received special attention. One was a think tank, where several prominent research and analysis teams devoted their time to predicting what technological trends and developments were worth pursuing. Another was the technology research department itself, where the actual lab work was done. A third was the special operations department. Industrial espionage and extraction of competitor's researchers and executives played a large part in the development of new media technology. The end result was that Net 54 became the first mediacorp with a really strong in-house technology research and development capability. Other mediacorps were still buying new tech from other corporations, and this made them slow. Although competitors eventually caught on, Net 54's head start established it as the dominant force in mediatech development. It has been on the cutting edge ever since, with most other mediacorps following its lead.
With IMT under full steam by 2001, Net 54 became the vanguard of mediatech development. Those technologies that were developed by other companies were usually commercially implemented on a large scale by Net 54 first. Thus a history of recent developments in electronic media is easily studied and understood through examining the recent progress of Net 54.
The first shake-up created by Net 54, via IMT research, was in the venerable newspaper trade. In 2002, Net 54 turned the way Americans received their daily news upside down. The initial developments affected people who received printed news at home. A program was offered under which individuals subscribed to the Network 54 printed news service. For one low, monthly fee, subscribers gained access to a news database through the phone system (and later the Net) which allowed them to call up text and photographs from any Net 54-owned newspaper on their television or home computer. A hardcopy printed out on demand. The first advantage of the computerized newspaper service was that the news was always current, as it was constantly updated at the company end. In addition, the subscriber could call up video footage pertinent to subjects of interest. Any sections that the subscriber was not interested in could be deleted. In this way, the information content and diversity of a newspaper came with the excitement of a newscast, and without excess garbage.
Shortly thereafter, a small, portable unit was introduced that could hold up to several thousand pages of print and photos in RAM, and project them on a small flatscreen. With a cheap, home attachment, subscribers to the Net 54 printed news service could transfer whatever information they wanted from their home decks and take it with them on their commute. In addition, old-fashioned newspaper ending boxes were replaced with small stations where subscribers could plug in their newsdecks and receive free updates and the text of any paper carried on the service. For a quarter or two, non-subscribers who owned any of a number of deck types and laptop computers could purchase the same information. Our modern digitized newspaper and magazine services are merely refined versions of this process. After the Net came into being, and other companies started getting on the bandwagon, we reached our present system where anyone who owns a standard portable, personal computer deck can copy the news or a magazine by paying the correct amount at an automated newsstand and plugging in their unit. For home subscribers, things have remained much the same, except that many companies now offer services competing with Net 54. As a result, the old-fashioned printed newspaper has faded into oblivion, although for those who prefer to get their facts on newsprint, the automated stands do offer a fax-style output.
In another expansion from its television roots, Net 54 established a foothold in the music industry in 2005 by introducing Soundchips. Popular with interface equipped youngsters of the 2020s, these are small ROM chips available in vending machines, stores, in promotional giveaways and even as gifts in cereal boxes. Commercial ones usually contain from one to three songs and an obligatory advertisement. The chips are cheap because, unlike reflex chipware, they are one-way, and don't interact with the user's brain. They just send out their signal when plugged in, enabling the wearer to experience the music in flawless, 360 degree stereo brilliance.
Soundchips gained popularity with many large mediacorps because, most underground rockerboys couldn't afford the production set up. Digital discs are easy to produce, and the equipment needed to do it isn't very expensive Sound chips were even cheaper to mass produce, but the facilities to do it were still beyond the reach of street rockerboys. Appeals to corporations, who don't like their sponsored bands having to compete with the street 'boys. Although an entire album can't be stored on one chip, Net 54 and other mediacorps will use the chips as saturation advertising. Teenagers buy the singles, or get them free, and hopefully are enticed into shelling out for the entire album.
Other than soundchips, IMT's developments in new music technology have been fairly limited. Net 54 has been party to some refinements in the industry, but development of music recording and playback technology has remained fairly consistent since read-write laser disc and direct digital RAM storage recording (super-sampling) rendered tape obsolete. In bringing music to the public, however, Net 54 has been a leader. Net 54 owns several music oriented subsidiary stations across the nation and around the world, and is a major force in commercial radio. Their only flaw is that they tend to overemphasize material recorded on their own labels, but to them it's free ad time.
Despite their forays into music recording, print services, and even radio, video technology has always been Net 54's mainstay. They remain first and foremost a broadcast corporation, and that is where the bulk of their development is concentrated. Most modern home reception is fiberoptically carried, negating interference, but portable receivers still require electromagnetic transmission. IMT was responsible for the development and adoption of digital signal transmission. This was the technology that preceded the development of modern radios and televisions which are nowhere near as prone to interference and fade out problems as their progenitors.
Despite the emphasis on traditional broadcast technology such as radio and television, Net 54 did not ignore the possibilities opened up by the development of cybernetics. In addition to soundchips, there are several other media services which involve interfacing. IMT developed the systems which made it possible to use interface plugs as glorified headphones. Many companies now market personal stereo systems which read standard laser disks, but deliver the music in a form of aural simulation, similar to soundchips. You hear it in your head, via your interface plugs. The advantage to this system is that the reproduction is flawless, no one else can hear it, and the listener can still hear what is happening in the world around them. The drawback is that, as with soundchips, users sometimes note that the music has an ethereal or "unreal" quality about it, since there is no corresponding physical stimulation.
Even video can be received over interface these days. Interfaced reception of video is not interactive, and does not affect the users emotions like braindance does, it simply projects a simulated image instead of a real one. Unfortunately, this technology is being largely ignored in the face of the advent of braindance, which carries simulated reality to its ultimate extent. Braindance is, in fact, the one new media technology in which Net 54 did no development. Although Net 54 produces braindance programs as much as any modern mediacorp, it missed its chance to play a part in the development of the technology when it was outmaneuvered by rival media corp DMS.
With 25% of the total broadcasting power of the nation in its pocket, contracts for all of the hottest stars and shows, and the best news department in professional media, it seemed like nothing could threaten the rule of Net 54. Suddenly, trouble in paradise. In 2005, Net 54 programming genius Howard Wong was wooed away by a staggering offer from an upstart mediacorp out of LA. As new CEO, Wong shrewdly annexed a series of key stations, industries, and bureaus from throughout the world and turned the previously inconsequential Diverse Media Systems into Net 54's only real competition.
Threatened for the first time in its history, Net 54 reacted with vehemence. There ensued a furious and frequently destructive race for consolidation of the few remaining independent stations and communications industries. In 2009, in one of the first of the classic corporate extractions, Net 54 kidnapped Howard Wong from DMS' head office. DMS shot down the aircraft escaping with Wong, killing him rather than let him fall back into Net 54's hands. Net 54 maintained that DMS shot the plane down to prevent the repatriation of Wong, but the DMS legal department countered that Net 54 never could have used Wong in a prominent leadership position because he was still legally under contract to DMS, so Net 54 purposefully killed him in a manner intended to cast suspicion on their rival. There followed a series of retribution extractions and assassinations on both sides that nearly exploded into full blown corporate war.
With the passing of time, the rivalry between DMS and Net 54 had shifted from the battlefield to the boardroom. Each company attempting to outdo the other in the development of new technologies, series, stars and in the breaking of major news stories. The competition for acquisition of smaller companies continued unabated. Although the two companies regularly blame incidents and extractions on each other, the bulk of the casualties are on paper.
Network News 54 was a wavelength monopolizer before the Fourth Corporate War, operating on the same frequency across the NUSA. No matter the part of the country, Network News 54 would be on Channel 54, although after the War their reach into the broadcast markets had been severely curtailed. Despite its name, News 54 still offered many diversions in addition to news. Every regional office offered a slightly different schedule to its district, with syndicated series, non-prime-time movies, and independent local news programs. Certain elements of the broadcasting were universal nationwide, such as prime-time series and bi-hourly national and world news shows. Under the control of Michelle Dreyer, widow of the original founder, the actual Corporate offices were located on the vast prairie spread at Fifty Pines Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In 2077, Network News 54's Night City regional office is located in the Downtown area. NN54 is one of the two main channels seen in the New United States. It has a noticeable pro-Militech bias, as opposed to its rival, WNS, being pro-Arasaka. The local anchor for the N54 News program is Gillean Jordan. Media Bes Isis handles some investigative reporting. The N54 channel also hosts a variety of shows such as Night After Night with ZiggyQ, Chip In, and Attuned In.
Notable media personalities that have been featured on Network News 54 include Bes Isis, formerly known as Nancy from the band Samurai, and Lyle McClellan. Bes Isis joined the organization in 2008 to become a major media presence when the members of Samurai went in different creative directions. By 2077, the host of News 54 is Gillean Jordan.
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Equipment and Resources
Network News 54 owns 42 AV-4s, ostensibly used as mobile news gathering and broadcasting facilities. These vehicles also retain much of their combat function. News 54 also owns 30 helicopters for weather and traffic reporting at each of the network offices, as well as for shuttling company executives, and ten corporate jets and five Osprey II aircraft. The network has standard personal equipment for its troops, but little access to military weapons of a non man-portable nature, with the exception of a few vehicles. News 54 has no airlift capability of its own.