07 August 2013

Wind, Weiner, and CBS

When the wind blows hard, several unrelenting facts obtain:

On windy days, if I get the boat out of the slip without hitting one of my close neighbors, I fear I may never get the boat back in the slip without incurring insurance claims. As it is, even on calmer days, when I approach the marina, the staff sounds an alarm warning women and children to get off the docks and take to the bulkheads.  And if I do get out, once we are in the Montauk rips Stella Maris does her best to topple me out into the sea.  So today I sulk indoors and ruminate briefly on other aspects of wind, i.e., windbags.

Just a few for today:  Numero Uno is, of course, Anthony Weiner. Remarkable. He just keeps on talking, ignoring the fact that no sentient human could possibly believe anything he says. A Beaufort Force 8, 40 knot gale of bullshit.  Except that gales generally peter out (sorry, that pun was unavoidable), but Weiner can’t seem to zip.  Not to worry:  Doubtless the sexual perversion and non-stop Munchenhousenism will be completely repaired by a few visits of a “therapist” to Gracie Mansion.  Or perhaps a visit with Billy Graham. Hey, look what that did for Bill.

And speaking of gales of hot air, while we Cablevision customers here on the tip of Long Island are not directly affected by the TimeWarner dispute with CBS,  I see us nevertheless getting the short end of the stick in the end.  Both sides bloviate extensively in the press, great volumes of wind, but I don’t see any serious analysis of the real effect on consumers.  I am not talking about missing vital programming like The Price is Right, but a transfer on dollars out our pockets and into those of Les Moonves.  

Here is the way it looks to me: The broadcast networks --like CBS, NBC, et al, the ones that send a signal over the air--get exclusive rights to occupy free airwave spectrum as long they meet certain minimum requirements established by that great generous broadcast spectrum owner-donor, the federal government.  So the broadcasters run some news programs “in the public interest”, and as long as they avoid showing Anthony Weiner’s weiner or broadcast wardrobe malfunctions, they get to keep the airwave spectrum, broadcast content, and collect money from advertisers.  Once upon a time we all had tv antennas and got to watch Howdy Doody, John F. Kennedy’s funeral, and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, all for free, (but for our tolerance of the broadcasters’ commercials. Nothing more.)  But many of us have since been weaned to cable, our roof-top antennas are gone, and now they have us where they want us:  Captives of the cable companies, who charge us fees to watch what formerly was free.  But the broadcasters coveted a piece of that action too and got Congress to permit them to charge the cable companies a fee for “re-transmission” of their broadcast signal, and now they want to eat their cake and have it too:  they want to keep the free spectrum-- a huge advantage over the many cable-only stations that have no broadcast rights--- and they also want to get a fee from us, derivatively through the cable companies.  

The effect on viewers?  We get screwed, of course.  As taxpayers, we give money to broadcasters by giving them free broadcast spectrum, which would be worth billions of dollars in the open market, in exchange for them broadcasting content us without a user fee, and then they got Congress to allow them to keep the spectrum and charge us a user fee anyway;  for sure, any fee they get from the cable companies will surely be passed on to us.

I see a simple a fair solution:  Both sides of the debate can turn off the wind. No more hot air. Stop all the bullshit advertising. The television broadcasters should make an election: i) keep their free license to monopolize their chunk of the broadcast spectrum and permit the consumer no-fee access to that content, or ii) surrender the taxpayer-owned spectrum and compete fairly with the many other non-broadcast cable-only stations.  Why should I pay twice for the same product? I am not a TimeWarner customer, but is there any doubt that if CBS wins this battle, all cable customers will ultimately pay more?

(A whole other discussion: why shouldn’t I be able to pay only for the channels, or programs, I like?  Why should I have to pay to have access to Let’s Make a Deal, or Fox News?) Ahh, another time, not today. Got to get to the boat and repair some tackle.  Bluefish are no respecters of my nylon leaders.

A bientot.

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