Wednesday, May 15, 2013

John McCain Kills MSNBC?

I’ve been saying for some time that the GOP needs to become more consumer friendly. Consumerism really is the driving engine of free market capitalism, yet the GOP always backs oligopolists. Imagine my surprise to see John McCain champion something that is definitely pro-consumer and which may have a surprising political result: the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013.

The TCFA may not be on your radar screen because it’s the type of “housekeeping” bill that doesn’t usually excite the ideologues, so you rarely see it discussed at blogs or on talk shows. But these bills can often be much more important than they seem.

If this bill passes, it will do several things:
● It will provide an incentive to encourage cable providers to offer “a la carte” programming. This would allow you to pick the channels you want to buy without getting others thrown in. Cable currently only offers “bundles” where you need to buy a bunch of channels bundled together. It would also prohibit certain channels from being bundled.

● It will prevent the networks from moving “event programming” (like the Super Bowl) to cable. This is in response to the networks threatening to take their biggest programs off the air and move them to cable to prevent them being re-broadcast over the internet.

● It will eliminate sports blackout rules which prohibit local broadcasters from showing games that aren’t sold out. This is based on the idea that local taxpayers already pay for stadiums and thus should not be denied the right to see the game if it is broadcast elsewhere.
The National Cable & Television Association naturally hates the bill. They claim that bundling increases the diversity and value of channels. Consumer groups applaud this. Either could be right, though I suspect the cable people probably are more likely to be right. Still, I’m more interested in the politics....

First, I find it interesting that a Republican would go against big business interests on this, especially with the limited outcry. Yes, people always talk about how they wish they could pick and choose which cable channels to pay for, but I don’t see anyone really being upset about not having that choice. The blackout rule makes people more upset, but there are few areas where that has an effect. Similarly, the only time I can think of when the “event programming” issue came up was the fight between Time Warner and the NFL in New York City a couple years ago. So why would a Republican jump on board this issue and pick the side of the consumer over Big Business?

To tell the truth, I’m not actually sure. It’s possible that this is another sign that the Republicans are realizing that the government should be pro-consumer and pro-competition rather than pro-oligopoly. I’ve seen growing signs of that from people like Bobby Jindal saying we need to stop being the party of Big Business and Big Government. I’ve seen several Republicans talking about breaking up the big banks. And I’ve even seen a good number of Republicans talking about cutting corporate welfare in the form of deductions and ethanol subsidies. That’s all encouraging.

It’s also possible the Republicans are starting to play hardball with companies who haven’t really been great friends of the Republicans. That would be nice too. Though I’ve seen little evidence of that one.

In any event, this idea raises an intriguing possibility. If this passes, what are the odds that MSNBC and, possibly, CNN won’t survive? Neither network has much left in the way of viewers, but they survive because they get bundled in with more popular channels. If the bundling ended, it would be easy to see MSNBC and CNN failing because of lack of consumer demand. That would be interesting. Indeed, it would be kind of fun to see liberal news channels get whacked by the market. That would be a real validation that the public has no appetite for the progressive agenda... not to mention that it would confirm that progressives are cheap.

Even more interestingly, I wonder what this would mean for the public’s perception of the rest of the media. Would this be more likely to expose the bias at places like the networks since they could no longer point to the very-fringy MSNBC and say, “That’s real bias... we’re not like them!” or would it allow them to hide behind the idea that only “unbiased” news has found a marketplace... well, that and Fox News.

This bill will be interesting. It’s interesting that McCain is trying to find things that upset consumers and offer them solutions. That’s a really good sign as the beginnings of an agenda. It’s will be interesting to see (if it passes) how this changes the cable landscape as well. That one is too hard to tell – some channels will die, some will reform, others will move to the net, and others survive with less. And it will be interesting to see the effect on the ability of the left to get their message out to. . . well, the few people who actually watched their garbage.


P.S. As a bonus thought... I wonder if this isn’t the beginning of Republican intervention in the “stadium issue.” For some time now, it’s been obvious that cities get ripped off by the NFL for stadiums, and I’m seeing more and more backlash over it (“welfare for billionaires” is the catchphrase). The NFL has responded by using a move to LA as a threat to keep get more funding. I wonder if the Republicans aren’t starting to impose requirements on the NFL on the basis that they get public money for stadiums as a way to “encourage” the NFL to stop demanding public funds? We’ll have to watch to see how that goes.


tryanmax said...

McCain may be sensing a shifting tide and deciding to wade in with something easy. It's really hard to imagine the public at large would oppose this bill, but picking something low-priority ensures he doesn't generate too many waves should it go south. Worst case scenario, the status quo remains the same and nobody notices. So while McCain may be playing it cautiously, he is probably indicative of greater changes elsewhere.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I agree with that assessment. This is precisely the kind of low-risk thing the Republicans could do to start getting more credibility with people on consumer issues. Then, if this works, you move on to something bigger and then something bigger. Then suddenly you proclaim yourself a consumer champion and you point to a track record nobody realized you had.

Good thinking!

Backthrow said...

Well, it sounds good, if the bill actually accomplishes what its sponsors are promoting (mainly the a la carte option), but I'm skeptical; so often, the feds end up making a bad thing worse. Also, McCain never inspires confidence in me. It would be sweet to see CNN and MSNBC crumble to dust by dint of their own unpopularity and irrelevance, and it would also be interesting to find out what else perishes, politics aside.

Me, I'd be happy with TCM (if it survives) and maybe a couple of other channels (for news/info and the occasional movie or TV series rarity), but to be honest, 99.9% of the TV I watch comes from my giant DVD/Blu collection, Netflix rentals, and streaming. Most channels I once enjoyed 10-20 years ago have devolved into worthlessness, so the disc & streaming programming lineup I've customized for myself is far better than any channel that has ever existed, or will ever exist.

As far as the sports blackout rules and the prevention of moving 'event' programming from network to exclusive cable... I have no dog in that fight, as I avoid all sports programming and awards ceremonies. Hopefully things will work out to the benefit of the fans, though.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I think that ultimately, this bill is not a good thing in its present shape. I suspect it will result in higher cable bills across the board and will probably slaughter enough channels that everyone will feel like they lost something they liked. So consumers won't be happy.

As for the sports blackout stuff, I think that ultimately, that only affects a small number of people.... but note that they are urban dwellers! That means, this could have more appeal that we expect in the very area where Republicans are currently shunned.

And in any event, I am encouraged that the Republicans (McCain in particular) seem to be looking for consumer issues after spending the last several decades knee-jerk defending big business. And like tryanmax says, I think that this bill is "small enough" that it can't hurt us whether or not it fails or succeeds... so it's a good first step.

What do you guys think about the bias issue if MSNBC goes down in flames?

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I also don't expect this to pass, but it makes for interesting politics to be able to go to DC or NYC or Minnesota and say, "Hey, we tried to make them show you the games you paid for with your taxes."

Kit said...

I just hope TCM survives.

It is probably the most important cable channel in the country.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, More will survive than people think because they are jointly owned. What will probably die off will be the independent cable channels and the real specialty networks.

Beyond that, all the bigger named stuff should survive. I would think that most of what NBC owns will survive, though I suspect MSNBC and CNBC might not once they lose their bundle subsidy. TMC I would suspect will survive as it is jointly owned by the rest of Turner's empire.

Of course, everything may survive too. Or some of these channels may make a deal with someone like Netflix to stream directly. It's hard to tall... too many possibilities right now.

T-Rav said...

I'm writing on very little sleep right now, so I may not be thinking straight, but I don't think I like the idea of the networks and cable companies being told what channels and programs they can and can't move around. Lifting restrictions on local stations, sure. That's great. But the rest of it sounds like exactly the sort of thing McCain would endorse.

But I may be wrong. I might think about this differently tomorrow after getting some sleep. Actually, I probably shouldn't have written this. Oh well.

AndrewPrice said...

Sleep T-Rav... sleep.... leave your credit card numbers.... sleep... ;P

It's really a question of who do you favor -- consumers or producers. Do consumers get to pick their own products or can producers force them to buy certain products to get others.

And in this case, McCain is adopting a classic anti-trust position of opposing bundling, which theoretically favors consumers (though I
think the jury is out on that truthfully).

Honestly, it doesn't bother me either way. I just think it's noteworthy that for once, a Republican is siding with the consumers over the producers. And I think it's interesting when combined with Republican calls to break up the big banks and to end corporate welfare and to close up a lot of the deductions in the tax code. It strikes me, there is an attitude shift going on.

I also think it's kind of funny that MSNBC could get whacked by this, but that's hardly the big point.

Also, I agree completely with the NFL stuff. Public stadiums, public airways, public infrastructure... private profit. I don't like that at all.

K said...

Andrew: Let me see if I understand this.

If you believe that individual freedom represents the basis of the American idea it follows you are automatically adverse to high densities of both government power and corporate power. The historical method was to play one off against the other. Anti-big business liberals vs pro-business conservatives.

The progressives, who are highly antipathetic to non collectivist thought, have done an end run by allying big business and big government. This has subsequently reduced the political clout of the pro-big business establishment Republican opposition substantially as they are being undercut by numerous big businesses - who now find them superfluous.

Subsequently, the Republican establishment must pivot to an anti-big business stance (concentrating on those corporations that are operating as progressive stooges) while the Tea Party wing continues to attack government giantism.

It's interesting that McCain, the rouge Republican, should be the first to move this direction as he brings a lot of experience into the equation - if not common sense (McCain Feingold). I'm hoping that some establishment Republicans with some common sense and real political ability will take up the anti-big business wing.

That about it?

Patriot said...

Andrew...I think the whole idea of old fashioned TV watching is done. Us old folks, who remember early TV with 3-4 stations, B/W TV and stations going off the air at 2:00AM were fascinated by early cable, and some of us us (Turner) profited tremendously off it. Yet, I am like Backthrow now, as I'm sure millions of both my generation and "the kids" generation are...we utilize the TV as a portal to provide the programming WE enjoy, not what the cable companies offer us.

I don't even have cable TV any more. I have pretty fast internet service (they just laid in FIOS in my neck of the woods) and I use my video portal (the TV) as the viewer for my DVD's, BR's, streaming videos AND stale cable program shows that I view through Netflix, Amazon and/or Hulu. What is the difference between TIVO'ing (do people still TIVO anymore) and watching a show when you can, or just watching when you can off the internet?

As far as NFL viewing, while it is still wildly popular, there are only 30(?) cities it really affects from a tax standpoint (pardon, 29 as GB is still privately owned I believe?) I don't think taxpayers even feel the tax burden anymore as they pay taxes on everything, and if they get a football stadium in the city to draw suburban families in, then all the better. I personally think it's ridiculous that taxpayers pay the brunt of a new stadium and owners reap all the rewards $$-wise.

As far as bundling and the viability of certain left-leaning cable shows (the focus of your blog above) I am a very free market guy like yourself...let consumers decide where they want to spend their own money and if you have a product or service they are willing to shell out their hard-earned money for, then you survive. If not, sayonara losers. Just like taxpayers should NOT be subsidizing NPR, NEA or any of these "public broadcasting" stations. I'm sure they can survive on their own as they do those annoying fund drives all the time anyhow.

So, will this bill pass? Doubtful. Once the cable companies start whispering in the ears of their bought and paid for congress-critters, this probably won't even come up to the floor for a vote. But.....but.....if Repubs are smart ( hurts) they will use this, as you state, to begin changing their brand to one of pro-consumer and anti-big business subsidy.

Either way, I would like to see it pass, but as I said previously above, I follow the Backthrow model of TV watching anyway, and would just love to see the free market kill off the leftist and fringe right programming. If either of them can survive by loyal viewers, then good for them, and it would show the politicians what the majority of the people in this country REALLY believe. Not that that matters as they are MUCH smarter and urbane than we proles.

Patriot said...

Off topic...Please tell me how it is that Angeline Jolie "shines a light" on breast cancer?! I had no idea there was such a thing until a beautiful star "shined a light" on the health issue!! You know, we should have, like "Walk for the Cure" type events....little pink fact, let's have those macho NFL players wear pink ribbons on their helmets and uniforms, because, you know, the American public had no clue that there was breast cancer before Angelina Jolie "shined a light" on it.

Rant off...... Personal for me as many family members have breast cancer and have had the same procedure as Jolie.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

Interestingly enough, S.T. Karnick (whose Big Hollywood articles I enjoyed even when I disagreed with them) did a recent write-up on this. He's doesn't think this idea will work:

McCain’s plan is certainly well-intended, but it would just be more clumsy government intrusion in things that don’t respond well to brute force. Requiring cable operators to offer channels individually, without also requiring all content providers (not just broadcast networks) to unbundle their programs will at best have no effect on prices and at worst will drive up prices and reduce access to programming. In fact, forcing unbundling will almost certainly reduce cable consumers’ access to programming.

Consider the microeconomics of the matter: the cable operator will have to offer the channels individually, but it will still have to pay for many channels en bloc, which means that someone will still have to eat the cost of the unpopular channels. That unlucky party will be the consumer, because what the cable operator will have to do is price the individually offered channels and/or customized tiers at a level that will ensure a profit or go out of business.

rlaWTX said...

Totally OT:
SURPRISE!! (or not)

I have to admit, if I have to look for a new job, I'm glad I'm here and not out there in "High Unemployment Land". But it might be nice to go there and visit a fully staffed restaurant...

AndrewPrice said...

K, Yeah, that about sums it up. I'm seeing several Republicans starting to realize that big business is not their friend and is not good for America. It's all just starting though, so there isn't much to point to yet. But I've seen solid conservatives talk about breaking up the big banks and stripping corporate welfare from the tax code and ending direct subsidies. I've seen Bobby Jindal flat out state we need to become the party of small business and not big business ("or big anything"). And now... this.

In terms of the bill itself, it's got good and bad parts, but what interests me is that this may be a first sign of the new direction, especially if an establishment guy like McCain is sponsoring it.

Something is going on here.

It's interesting, isn't it?

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, There are still a huge number of people who do television the old way -- with just over-the-air networks or cable. The internet is getting more popular, but hasn't come anywhere near taking over yet. That said, the internet is the future. And it's impossible to tell where we'll be in 20 years.

In terms of consumers, I agree. I favor consumers over producers when the market isn't fully competitive. If there were a thousand cable networks you could switch too, then I would have no problem with bundling as a way to give you a better deal, i.e. competition. But with the reality being that 99.9% of people have only one choice in cable and probably not even 50% can switch to satellite, I think anti-trust type laws are a valid means to prevent anti-consumer practices.

Is that the real case here? I don't know, but as I said above, what interests me is not the bill itself. I have no problem with my cable provider or what they provide (I actually do Directv). What interests me is that a knee-jerk pro-big business Republican would sponsor this. To me, this represents a real break with the past.

Not only does this go against the Republican near-hatred of anything that "harms business," but McCain has very clearly laid this out as consumerism. He's talked about lowering cable bills, giving consumers choices, etc. That is a fundamental shift in how he's operated in the past, where he would have adopted the rather phony line, "If they don't like it, they don't need to buy it." That works with something like a pair of sunglasses, but not with something that has basically come to be considered a utility.

On the NFL stuff, it's 32 cities actually and Green Bay is publicly owned. So in that regard, it seems to be a minor issue. BUT keep in mind that these are some of the biggest cities in the US. If each averages two million people in their market, you could be talking up to 64 million people. That's 64 million people who tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

I see this as an attempt by McCain to reach out to urban dwellers who complain about paying a billion dollars every 15 years for a new stadium and then don't even get to see the games, and who complain about their cable bills skyrocketing.

Basically, I see this as an attempt by McCain to make the party consumer friendly, something I am starting to see more evidence of throughout the party.

Commander Max said...

I would call a bill like this, too little too late. That was my thought last week when I heard about this. This bill would have made more sense over 20 years ago. But considering how good my cable service was in those days, the channels I watched would be the last to be fixed. Which would make the whole thing useless. Since I can't stand sports nor know anything about the subject. I was bitter about why the sports channels are working, but what I want to watch is out. That was 20+ years ago, today the whole thing is dumb. Obviously the cable lobby isn't as strong as it used to be. People have been wanting cable a la carte since the 80's. But the cable companies never offered it. That's the only thing in the bill that makes sense(the sports thing is meaningless to me).
Why do I call it dumb? It's too little too late, I'm gone why would I want to sit through commercials, have to wait for what I want to watch, record it and watch it weeks later(if ever). I still have to hit the fast forward on the remote to get past the commercials. If I want the service installed(or it needs service), they will be by between the hours of 8am and 5pm, only to call at 4:30pm and say they have to reschedule or worse the cable guy shows up at 7pm(where is that provision in the bill?). Then there is the money, that's just plain nuts, I can't stand the idea that part of my cable bill goes to CNN/AmessNBC to tell me FU for 24/7(I not watching, you guys should be history with your ratings, along with PBS).
Ironically the only cable we have is the internet service, which is far more useful that 500+ channels of chrome plated ca ca. With it I can watch what I want when I want, and I can post here at the same time:).

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, What's breast cancer?

Yeah, in all seriousness, I agree with you. This idea of "raising awareness" is liberalism in its purest form. The idea is not to "raise awareness" it's to create a stir to get politicians to give us other people's money that we can use to do something.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, A couple points.

1. The bill will "work"... what I don't know is if it will result in lower costs. I doubt it. You'll probably end up paying about the same for fewer channels. But the idea that it will leave poor, helpless little cable companies at the mercy of big content is simply laughable. For as far back as I can remember, cable companies have had much more power than content providers and they've won every single battle.

2. Karnick is doing static thinking. He's assuming that everything stays the same except that cable companies suddenly need to offer things separately. Static thinking is always wrong. Consumer demand will change as will the cable company response. Also, if cable companies are forced to unbundle and if bundling is really a problem, then you can expect a quick anti-trust suit by cable providers to break the content bundles.

3. Also, before we could say that Karnick is right even in this environment, we'd need to see the cost/value of these bundles. If TNT and TNT2 come in a bundle that costs $5, but TNT alone is worth $5 to the cable provider, then there's no problem at all. And it's highly unlikely that even now that cable providers are paying $5.01 for something worth only $5. They aren't charities.

4. The point about this being clumsy government intrusion is the real point here.

Big Business has pushed this idea that any regulation they don't like is "bad for business" or "anti-capitalism" and "will make everything worse." But this is false. Big Business has learned to use their relationship with government to get their fields regulated as a way to keep out competitors and then to control consumers.

A number of conservatives have wrongly bought into this idea and repeat this mantra every time Big Business yanks their leashes. But it's not true. If there is a competitive free market, then there should be no attempt to regulate to help either consumers or producers. But when the market is not competitive (and cable is not), then regulation is appropriate to level the playing field and to stop monopoly practice.

Seriously, these are the same arguments made by people who said that breaking up the phone company would hurt consumers... that attacking Microsoft's IE would destroy the internet... that we could fix healthcare just by forcing people to buy insurance from Big Insurance... that we shouldn't interfere with the too-big-too-fail banks.

This is something conservatives are starting to wake up to. Some haven't yet, but many are. I find it interesting that there finally seems to be this change and it's coming from all across the Republican spectrum.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, "Visit a full-staffed restaurant!" LOL!

Glad to hear things are going so well in your neck of the woods. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Max, There are about 100 million cable subscribers in the US. Since the average household is something like 2.6 people, that means about 80% coverage. So this is potentially a huge issue if it works and it if matters to enough of those people. And there are a lot of people clamoring about the size of their cable bills right now -- it's way outpaced inflation.

The sports stuff is becoming increasingly frustrating to people because the NFL has gotten very good at holding up taxpayers to enrich their billionaire owners. A recent aborted election in Miami showed almost 60% opposition to paying taxes to renovate the Dolphin's stadium.

Again, I think this can only help with the very people Republicans don't win right now.

AndrewPrice said...

Folks, I need to head to Denver. I'll be back in a couple hours.

tryanmax said...

I haven't commented but this has been rolling around in the back of my mind all day. Some thoughts:

One argument I keep encountering against the McCain bill is that it would result in a loss of diversity of programming. Putting aside how diversity gets fetishized, I don't think that's true.

The romantic ideal is that CATV provides channels wholly devoted to every niche genre imaginable 24 hrs a day. And certainly that's the model they repeatedly strive for. But think about how many channels have abandoned that model in order to stay alive: TLC, History, SciFi, AMC, Lifetime, MTV, Cartoon Network, etc. And what happens when the model is abandoned? More generic, less diverse programming, mostly in the way of reality programming.

But just because a niche can't support an entire network doesn't mean it can't find an audience. The internet has proven that to an extremely fine point. (It also proves that content creators cannot be stopped.) DVR and on-demand services are blurring the line between TV and internet. These time-shifting technologies are allowing user to filter and refine the content coming in via the CATV firehose instead of simply narrowing the stream. Rather than discouraging diversity, these tools should encourage it.

Now here is the rub: it may not necessarily encourage the same diversity that providers would offer on their own. This is where provider resistance is coming from. Basically, the current CATV model is only marginally different from the broadcast model, which put content providers also in the role of content deciders. End users are either served or not with no say in how they are served. The stronger feedback mechanisms of on-demand services change that and should direct providers toward underserved markets (depending on how resistant providers are).

It should also be noted that CATV providers currently act as a signal buffer b/w consumers and networks. Basically, consumers are purchasing the whole bundle in order to recieve a handful of networks, but that message never reaches the networks who use their ignorance as an excuse to put money into otherwise unprofitable programming. Some buffers are unavoidable, but this particular setup is highly intentional, akin to turning up the stereo to drown out the complaints of the neighbors.

Finally, while it may seem unfair to direct legislation at the CATV providers who are essentially in the middle, putting certain requirements on them necessarially shifts those requirements upwards. Requiring certain practices of the CATV companies simultaneously requires networks to stop abusing them.

Commander Max said...

I remember the battle many years ago to get the local cable provider to put on sci-fi. It seemed to go on forever, at least a couple of years.

It took them a long time to respond to what people wanted, I'm sure it had more to with what was offered to the local cable provider.

But while reading Andrew's piece one thing kept sticking in my mind. The huge cancellation of network shows that was put out last weekend(18+). That's something we can't ignore, things are changing. That's why I said this sort of bill is too little too late. I don't think it will help Reps, at all. The Dems dominate the entertainment market, are they really going to say how wonderful McCain is for doing this, never. Will the people think that on their own, nope(that would take some digging). They are going to be happy they get what they want, and could care less what is behind it.
The whole entertainment market is in flux. Even the guys making the programs are having a heck of a time figuring it out.
One thing that would be exposed, and the better part of this bill. What channels people want to watch. Would those channels that are unpopular(like CNN) go away?

tryanmax said...

Max, I agree, Repubs won't get any points from the entertainment industry for this. Quite the opposite in fact. But that's why this makes sense. In the area of CATV, the perception is that providers are sticking it to the consumer (aka "the voter").

What makes this maneuver noteworthy is it is a break from the traditional GOP stance of siding with Big Business--even businesses that don't side with the GOP--and standing with consumers instead. If anything is 20 yrs overdue, it is that. Repubs have been siding with businesses that hate them my whole life.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, A few responses...

1. while it may seem unfair to direct legislation at the CATV providers who are essentially in the middle

I have no problem with this actually. First, all the evidence suggests that the monopoly resides at the cable level and not the content level. In every fight between content and cable, cable has won. And the reason is that consumers won't give up their cable just because they lose a channel or two in a dispute and because content providers have no true alternate way to display their content. That means cable has a captive market... and the only market.

Moreover, this idea of "we'll be victims of content owners" is false. They've tried this several times before. The most recent was the commercial-noise-level debate. The cable companies screamed, "We have no control over the noise level! It's the providers! And if you pass this law, we'll need to buy trillions of dollars worth of equipment we can't afford! Boo hoo hoo!"

Then the bill passed and cable simply told their commercial providers, "comply with this," and everyone did. The whole argument by cable turned out to be a lie... once again. I see the same thing here.

2. CATV providers currently act as a signal buffer

Absolutely agree. They have taken on the role of middle men and all the market distortions that entails.

3. think about how many channels have abandoned that model

Exactly. There's very little diversity on cable today except in the names of the networks. Yet, they've also found ways to inject some of their original mission. So the fear that we'll end up with just one or two identical channels seems misplaced.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I don't know if a channel like CNN would go away or if people would pick it as a reflex or if it could survive with a smaller subscriber base willing to pay a higher fee?

In terms of credit, there is nothing the Republicans can do that will win over liberals... ever. But this isn't about liberals. This is about getting people in the middle who aren't ideological but want to see the government "fix things" to start considering the Republicans rather than running in horror from them. That's going to take a lot of time, but you can change your image if you work at it, and this appears to be a great first step.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I agree. The Republicans have gone from pro-free markets to pro-Big Business since the end of Reagan and that needs to change back. I am hopeful that bills like this represent that adjustment.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, I'm mostly speculating at the relationship b/w the content providers and the cable providers. The whole thing is intentionally opaque, but middlemen being middlemen... I think the overall picture is both parties trying to squeeze the other and if the consumer gets caught in the middle, so be it.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Opacity is typically a sign misdirection. It is an attempt to make it hard to trace the source of conduct and it lets the parties avoid responsibility for their conduct. Our government funding system is perhaps the greatest example of this ever.

In any event, from what I've seen, the cable companies have won every struggle with the content providers -- with the most recent being the struggle with the NFL over it's network in NYC.

AndrewPrice said...

UPDATE: As an aside, the acting director of the IRS has resigned. Odds are Obama thinks this will calm the waters, but it's really just like throwing chum.

tryanmax said...

Youch! I don't follow NFL, so I missed that one. Yeah, that's a pretty big sign.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, If I recall all the facts right, what happened was the NFL Network wanted a lot of money, like $0.75 per cable subscriber, and they wanted Time Warner in NYC to put the NFL Network on the basic tier.

Time Warner said no. They wanted to put in on the sports pass so people would need to pay extra for it and they wanted to pay only $0.25 per person who subscribed to it specifically.

Neither side was willing to budget. So the NFL Network retaliated by not allowing a big Giant's game to be broadcast on local channels (as is usually allowed) when the NFL Network had the game. It was hugely discussed at the time. They did the same thing with a Rutgers bowl game the NFL somehow got.

The NFL thought they could force TW to pay their price. TW said no. Both sides went to Congress. Some Congressmen threatened to pull the NFL's tax-free standing. Others threatened to regulate TW to death. They even went to court. In the end, TW stood fast.

It took at least 6 years before they reached an agreement to put it on TW. The other major cable companies have all gone through the same thing. The cable companies basically won each round.

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