Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

TV proposal goes too far

June 27, 2007

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Every night around 11 o'clock my wife reluctantly relinquishes the remote control so that I can select the local newscast we will watch. The scene is familiar to millions of people for whom the TV remote can sometimes cause marital friction and spark a battle for the power to determine what others watch.

On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to discuss whether there is too much violence on cable and satellite TV and what to do about it. The issue of TV violence is the baby of Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who was scheduled to testify, but canceled at the last minute for family reasons. Martin thinks there is too much violence on subscription TV. The hearings went ahead without him as others testified for and against his proposal for federal regulation, which would make the point of the remote moot, as consumers could no longer control their entertainment choices.

In testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, an FCC representative was joined by at least one other commission member, one network executive and an advocacy group representative in support of legislation that would allow cable and satellite TV subscribers to select their programs "a la carte," meaning consumers could choose the networks they want to come into their homes and reject others. This cafeteria approach might sound good at first glance, but suppose someone didn't want to see the violence in Fox TV's "24," but did wish to see the violence of NFL football? Since Fox carries both, consumers who rejected Fox because of "24," would not be able to watch NFL football.

Not only is this a bad business model in that cable and satellite TV make money by telling advertisers they can reach a certain number of homes, it also takes away the privileges and responsibilities of individuals to make these decisions. I don't want - and you shouldn't either - any government official or bureaucrat deciding which cable shows are good for me, and which ones are not.

Much of this "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" attitude derives from the supposed negative impact such programs have on children, but Census figures show that only one-third of American households have children 18 or under. Chairman Martin favors regulating all households to accommodate this relatively small percentage.

It might be worth it if other avenues were not available to parents to control what their children watch, but those avenues exist in abundance. Parents can turn off, or even get rid of the TV; they can make use of the V-chip, now a part of all newer TV sets; they don't have to subscribe to cable or satellite TV; they can make use of the imperfect ratings system or they can monitor what their children watch.

It amazes me that some conservatives who preach against "big government" control of our lives think nothing of rushing in to ask big government to control our entertainment choices.

The a la carte approach is the worst of all worlds. Fox News could not have been launched in an a la carte environment, which might be good news for liberals, but bad news for those who wish to have another perspective on the news than what they got before Fox was born a decade ago. What about religious programming? Would conservative Christians, for example, wish to allow people to block all Christian programs when the opportunity to reach nonbelievers is a strong motivator for the people who produce them?

One expects government regulation and control during a Democratic administration, but a Republican administration is supposed to be dedicated to the free market. The FCC's own study shows that in an ideal a la carte world, consumers would get 20 channels, but would pay the same price as today's 150 channels. Only those who don't mind buying one egg and paying for a dozen would be comfortable with such a deal.

Those on the right who favor this proposed regulation had better think of the consequences. If the FCC and not the market control your entertainment choices, would a Democratic president and his (or her) appointees to the FCC feel emboldened to control the political dialogue? They surely would cite the entertainment regulations as precedent for coming after talk radio and anything else they deemed "harmful" to the public.

Don't let them take your remote, because you won't get it back.

- Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.

Comments

freeordie 8 years ago

Loss of freedom is happening very rapidly now. Fear is used to control. Rise up against this sort of tyranny.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

I don't know anything about the bill in question, and this article just confused me.

Huh?

How would making cable and satellite "a la carte" in any way be government control? The consumer would make the choice of what channels would come into their home. How is that government control?

And I would assume, if this was allowed, that if a new channel came into being, the customer would have the option of going to the cable office, or calling them, and saying they want the new channel. Likewise, if they choose a channel and then decide they don't like it, they should have the choice of taking it off their list.

Since I know the cable companies don't like the a la carte approach, that makes me think that it's a good thing.

Now, if they're talking about the FCC having the same sort of control over cable networks that they now have over the broadcast channels, then I say no.

maxcrabb 8 years ago

This article is funny, just plain funny.

Mr. Thomas is afraid that when people get the choice of paying for and recieving the specific channels they want, the people will shun 'alternative' news sources like fox, and embrace the mainstream "liberal" media.

         "Fox News could not have been launched in an a la carte environment, which might be good news for liberals, but bad news for those who wish to have another perspective on the news than what they got before Fox was born a decade ago. What about religious programming? Would conservative Christians, for example, wish to allow people to block all Christian programs when the opportunity to reach nonbelievers is a strong motivator for the people who produce them?"

Whats the precedent that shows Fox news couldn't survive in an a la carte environment? We've never had the service before, we don't know what shows would prosper.
Why is it harmful to allow "non-believers" block out religous programming they will never watch anyway? It is a persons right to recieve and watch the programs they WISH to see, not was Cal would like them to see.

           "If the FCC and not the market control your entertainment choices, would a Democratic president and his (or her) appointees to the FCC feel emboldened to control the political dialogue? They surely would cite the entertainment regulations as precedent for coming after talk radio and anything else they deemed "harmful" to the public."

Why is a theoretical Democratically controlled office being questioned for outlandish charges of regulation . Colin Powells son has allowed, as the head of the FCC, to let the worlds news be controlled by 4 main corporations. Public and independent radio has had to battle big companies like Clear Channel, who use their airtime to move advertising money and sell bands that down the line are owned by their own interests.

News channels have been duped by the Bush government into airing public health stories written by the government but presented as an objectified 'report' from that particular station.

Don't sit and worry about what the Dems could or might do, and worry about what the current administration does.

Christine Pennewell Davis 8 years ago

o people just change the channel if you don't want to watch them blow up, not such a big deal and no one needs to tell me how either i can do that for myself as well. Grow up america and act like a grown up make up your minds and stand by your choices, you do not need mom and dad to decide for you.

ndmoderate 8 years ago

Damn. You know, I actually found myself agreeing (holy crap) with Cal, until this steaming turd: "One expects government regulation and control during a Democratic administration..." Umm...really? Was it the Democrats who legislated against gay marriage? What about Terri Schiavo? Habeas Corpus?

And then came ol' Cal's real problem: "...would a Democratic president and his (or her) appointees to the FCC feel emboldened to control the political dialogue? They surely would cite the entertainment regulations as precedent for coming after talk radio and anything else they deemed "harmful" to the public."

He's apparently scared for the survival of Fox Noise Channel (and the idiots Hannity and O'Reilly they prop up).....if they truly presented fair and balanced news, they wouldn't have anything to be scared of, now wouldn't they?

average 8 years ago

The "a la carte" issue is about bundling.

Let's say that due to some interesting marketing, the local cable monopoly only gives you Fox News if you get Al-Jazeera and vice versa. Some (small) percentage of your cable bill goes to Murdoch and some to Qatar.

Well, why pretend? If I want to get the History Channel in Lawrence, via Dolph or Dish, I have to subsidize (infinitesimally) Fox News. And, to get Discovery, I would have to support ESPN and Fox Sports even more than I support Discovery (they charge the cable operator much more than Discovery does).

Why couldn't Fox News have been launched in an a-la-carte environment? They could have started as a free-to-distribute channel (thus any cable operator could offer it at zero extra charge). Are you saying that Fox News viewers couldn't pay for Fox News unless those who just wanted clear reception of local channels were forced to support them?

And if I have to financially support five Christian stations to get Comedy Central, I should at least demand that Cal support one Hindu broadcaster.

Shrug. I only watch a few hours of on-air programming as it is. In two years, I'll be forced to stop. The weak signal we can get from KC or Topeka analog broadcasters is nowhere near strong enough to support lower-wattage perfect-or-nothing digital TV. When over-the-air dies, that will be the end of TV in my house. I'll miss PBS, but it ain't worth $630 per year (Sunflower's cheapest plan including taxes).

maxcrabb 8 years ago

Parkay, all your arguments on the 'evils of tv' are based on the assumption that one is forced to watch tv. If parents don't want the programming in their homes, don't own a tv. I, on the other hand, have a right as a citizen of this united states to watch whatever crazy, sadistic, messed up programming people thing of putting on cable these days.

Why? Because the very idea of censorship is direct dissent from the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which preserve our right to say whatever we want, however we choose, should they not inflict on the liberty of others (libel, slander).

So buck up, and turn of the tv if it bothers you so much. Besides, you can get a lot of decent programming online these days.

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