PRODIGY has never been at the forefront of the on-line world, which has been dominated mostly by CompuServe and the Internet. However, the company is now bringing on-line an increasing number of services that should prove likely to broaden its appeal. Recently, for instance, Newsweek announced its move into the on-line world with the Newsweek Interactive on-line service to be available on Prodigy. Essentially a general-interest, multimedia magazine, it aims to combine photo, sound, graphics and text, all delivered over a single phone line. Still, even with this application of on-line technology to deliver timely and, one would hope, useful information, there are signs that these United States-orientated on-line services that dominate the commercial scene may be relying a bit much on television for the model of what content should be offered to viewers. Prodigy has been selected as the interactive computer link for Judge for Yourself, a new television show from Buena Vista Productions (Disney, really, under another name). The show attempts to combine courtroom drama with a talk show and will feature a daily debate on hot issues as well as decisions by an in-studio jury. A vote for a viewer's decision will also be taken and in this way viewers can participate through Prodigy, casting votes for the decisions which will be announced on the next day's show. Ignoring the fact that one might argue that this type of television only serves to sensationalise the law and turn it from a valuable tool for maintaining order into a circus, one also has to question the nature and role of on-line services as important sources of information and communication. It may be very easy to argue that like the telephone companies, an on-line service is an open forum. Anyone who pays for the right, can use the service in any way they choose. But, it really isn't that simple. These on-line services have a history of making decisions of what is allowable either by member-consensus, as in the case of the Internet flame wars, or by management decision as in the case of a provider not allowing people who share obscene material to remain members. What is sad, though, is that this right to judge and withhold access to those services deemed unnecessary or inappropriate doesn't extend so far as reserving bandwidth for services which even if they only aim to entertain, at least don't sensationalise and turn the on-line world into nothing more than a huge, electronic supermarket tabloid newspaper. Granted, similar to the television networks, these services are big businesses and will rely on statistics and surveys to prove that the public wants what the services are offering. This does not address the real issue though: if sensational programming and content had never been offered, would the public so voraciously demand it? If, for instance, television had force fed some other type of programming on the public, would these surveys reflect a different desire on the part of the viewing audience? This is really a chicken-and-egg question at this point. The on-line services, even though they have been around for years, really are still in their infancy. As a product with broad popular appeal, it is a great chance to find out what can happen if a major information outlet consciously decides not to pander to what executives believe is popular but rather stand by some type of code of ethics in what they present. But, then again, this is big business, so maybe it is too much to ask for.