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[ NNSquad ] Television's Money Complaints - 2009 and 1974

                Television's Money Complaints - 2009 and 1974


Greetings.  Comcast's plans to buy NBC Universal are widely viewed as
largely an effort to obtain a particular category of assets -- NBC's
cable networks.

The battles between the massive dominant cable TV firms (and the large
satellite TV delivery systems) vs. the network and local TV
programming suppliers (both over-the-air broadcast and not) has turned
into a continuing war.

On one hand, cable and satellite generally want as much programming as
possible at the lowest possible cost (ideally free).  Networks and
local stations would prefer to be paid, and the use of mandatory
packages ("if you want this network, you have to take all of these as
well") has further complicated the issues.

By the way, this is a different (though somewhat analogous) situation
from what cable and satellite subscribers face when choosing among
different programming packages.  However, I am not at this time a
supporter of proposed rules to force a la carte programming, since I
fear it will undercut the subsidies that keep various excellent niche
networks alive, which generally don't have large audiences relative to
the big movie and sports networks.

With the addition of Internet video viewing into the mix, the
concentration of power represented by -- for example -- Comcast owning
cable networks that its competitors would also want to distribute is
an obvious problem.

But for now, the cable big boys are complaining again about the costs
of programming, and Time Warner Cable in particular has now deployed
the increasingly common approach of trying to scare subscribers into
helping with TWC's negotiations.

TWC has started running a spot urging subscribers to vote on 
whether TWC should "roll over" or "get tough" in their negotiations, 
and warns of threatened programming cutoffs.

But amusingly, back at the dawn of cable TV, the roles were reversed,
with broadcast TV urging viewers -- even through ads running in movie
theaters -- to fight against pay TV and cable TV.  Deja vu all over

So let's see how much has really changed over 35 years or so.  I've
put together a short video including both the current TWC spot and a
classic anti-cable ad from around 1974.  (Apologies for the abrupt
start and ending of the second clip -- time is not generous to ancient

By the way, I'm still trying to figure out which of the most recent
presidential candidates the voice-over artist for the TWC spot was
voicing ads for.

   Television's Money Complaints - 2009 and 1974 (Video)
   http://bit.ly/8OMNWB  (YouTube)

Once again we see that in many ways, the more things change, the more
they stay the same.

Lauren Weinstein
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
Co-Founder, PFIR
   - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
Co-Founder, NNSquad
   - Network Neutrality Squad - http://www.nnsquad.org
Founder, GCTIP - Global Coalition 
   for Transparent Internet Performance - http://www.gctip.org
Founder, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein