Tuesday, January 5

Of Economics And Morality. Ha-ha, Just Kiddin'.

Kelly Riddell, "Fox-Time Warner Cable deal could mean billions for broadcasters". January 4

HERE'S a modest proposal: gimme back the fucking airspace over my own house, and then you fucks can do whatever the fuck you like with your precious Bones and House and all the other juvenilia America would have such a hard time replacing, apparently.

Y'know, the three great non-magical accomplishments of the Reagan administration were 1) bringing the fusty Savings & Loan industry into the 20th century; 2) solving the open revolt of the meat industry over stricter health and labeling laws--which it had met at that point by the simple expedient of thinking up new names for every cut of beef in existence so they weren't covered by the new regs--by cutting the number of food inspectors in half, putting representatives of the Slaughter industry in charge of what was left, and down-shifting the standards for beef grades, so that overnight "Choice" became "Prime", "Good" became "Choice", "Standard" became "Good" (which was renamed "Select"), and "Roadkill" became "Would you like Fries with that?". Reagan's first head of the USDA Food Marketing and Inspection Service was the Vice-President of the National Cattleman's Association. His second was the President. You can look this sort of shit up. The USDA then instituted something called the Streamlined Inspection System for Cattle (SIS-C), which efficiently replaced all those missing inspectors with the slaughterhouse employees themselves, on the grounds that they were already there anyway. If you can do this sort of thing and keep a straight face, or, better yet, one with a genial, more-or-less Out Of It smile on it, they name airports after you.

And 3) it (and the Windsock Court) solved the tricky problem of assuring that the nascent demimonopoly of cable television would remain insanely profitable enough for the likes of Time and Warner Brothers, provided the government looked the other way while they created the requisite chain of interlocking directorates and shell corporations required to assure a quality delivery system and shareholder value. And by removing your rights as Englishmen to capture, cook, and eat anything stupid enough to fly over your property unprotected.

Over the years we've managed to shrink the Minimal Requirement for Keeping the Rubes Happy and Dazed (MR-KRHD), too, but that was more-or-less an organic development. Anyway, "local" cable cartels were generally required to provide customers with feeds from all local broadcasters as part of the basic package.

As cynics may have already guessed, this, too, wound up before the Court (Contemptuous Multinational Greedheads v. Rapacious Local Brigands, 512 US 622 (1992); those of a humorous bent will have already figured out the majority opinion was written by Justice Kennedy, and the black-humored among them that both "free enterprise" and "the public good" were invoked numerous times without anyone cracking up enough to require anything more than a ten-minute recess. The right of local licensed broadcasters to a place on the cable menu was upheld; in the spirit of the Reconstruction Amendments, this right devolved to the broadcasters, not the public they "serve".

Cable companies are not permitted to charge the locals, but the locals can arrange deals for their consent, a sort of tacit admission that the monopolies in question were only meant to soak the general public. This has resulted--let's use a small Midwestern city resembling my own as an example--in periodic cat-spitting as contracts neared their sell-by dates, and often to short black-out periods which the resilient American teevee viewer has so far managed to survive. The last one here was a couple years ago, with Channel 8 news running nightly commentaries, and every-ten-minute refreshers, on the horrible threat posed to the Republic by Brighthouse, or Comcast, or whoever th' fuck it was they were a-feudin' with, after which the whole thing was forgotten and they went back to shilling electronic gizmos and canned the commentary routine altogether.

The salient benefit to John Q. Bedridden--the Ancient and Sacred owner of the airwaves these folks plunder, let's recall--in all this is that Channel 13 has finagled itself a Local Weather Channel, on which it broadcasts postage-stamp-sized reruns of its regular weather edutainment segment from as recently as four hours ago, or the (taxpayer-funded, just for the record) radar image from the airport, surrounded by more ad graphics than the average NASCAR driver.
News Corp. sought as much as $1 a month per Time Warner Cable subscriber for rights to Fox, home of "The Simpsons" and "American Idol," two people with knowledge of the matter said. If other networks seek similar terms, cable operators may have to fork out as much as $5 billion a year -- and would probably pass the cost on to subscribers, said Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in New York.

Wait. "They'd probably pass the cost on"? Does that mean it costs extra to get you to explain how you come to be an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in New York?
"The broadcast networks are really struggling to find a viable business model," Moffett said. "They're looking at the cable networks that make money both on advertising and the money that the cable operators pay them and saying, 'We need a dual revenue stream to survive, too.' "

And a pony. And we need the Freedom to direct that pony to stream on you.

Curious, ain't it, how the business model for graft-assisted government-awarded monopolies becomes the revenue model for private enterprise, rather than the old private-enterprise model (there's enough advertising money out there, given your control of our airwaves, for you to eat on and still provide the "service" for free) informing how the cable operators work? (Added local chuckle: the City of Indianapolis, under then-Mayor Dick "The St. Teresa of Avila of Washington, D.C." Lugar, awarded its cable monopoly to Indianapolis Cablevision, now part of the fine Comcast family of utility providers, before annexing the rest of the county in a legal voting-fraud scheme; it then fought Comcast in court for a decade so it could auction off the monopoly for the rest of the county to someone else.)

What's robbing a bank compared to founding a bank? Open season on cable transmissions would put thousands of aspiring young entrepreneurs to work and buttress the nation's Strategic Radio Shack Outlet reserves, while what's the worst that would happen? So You Think You Can Dance heads to YouTube? Rupert Murdock has a bake sale?


Augustus Mulliner said...

Oooooh...that last sentence just made my pants go crazy.

Sator Arepo said...

Don't know if it was just a happy coincidence, but the timing worked out so that the potential FOX outage (which would otherwise pass mostly unnoticed) synched up more-or-less exactly with several Important Bowl Games as well as half of the NFL playoffs.

I'm pretty sure that denying the playoffs to viewers was not *exactly* what the NFL had in mind when they awarded broadcast rights to Murdoch & co., so I wasn't too worried.

All the same, the prospect of having to find somewhere else to watch the Team of My Youth make their [doomed] playoff run pissed me off pretty good, and I had mentally drafted angry customer letters to various parties.

My brother-in-law (a diplomat) recommends less swearing in such missives if I really want a response. Huh, no wonder my awful local "news"paper never prints my fucking letters.

William said...

Some will rob you with a six gun, others with a fountain pen.

--Pretty Boy Floyd, as spoken to Woody Guthrie

Aaron said...

My brother-in-law (a diplomat) recommends less swearing in such missives if I really want a response. Huh, no wonder my awful local "news"paper never prints my fucking letters.

Try this: Write out the letter being exactly as motherfucking profane as the cocksucking hoopleheads merit. Then replace the profanity with some lawyerly weasel-words like "understandable" "perfectly reasonable" or "acknowledged."

The people in the know understand exactly what you mean when you talk about the "learned gentleman from Comcast."

StringonaStick said...

...now there's a legal tip I can use!

Sator Arepo said...

"learned gentleman from Comcast."

So it's the British Parliamentary model, then?

Aaron said...

Basically. Think of it as classing up the joint.

somaie said...

There's a movement to radically change California government, by getting rid of career politicians and chopping their salaries in half. A group known as Citizens for California Reform wants to make the California legislature a part time time job, just like it was until 1966.

Brendan said...

Love the new label.

Well, okay, not exactly new, I now see, but first I've noticed it.