for July 11, 2003
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for today's rant...
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Remember To Get A Receipt
by Sean Carolan
We were recently up in arms about the FCC's move to blow away
broadcast ownership rules, which would allow big media companies to get even bigger, even though there was a slight pullback from allowing a complete
free-for-all in the media marketplace. I say "pullback" because the
current direction of the FCC chief is that there should be no restrictions
at all. Even the significantly more conglomerate-friendly restrictions
that they passed, and that Congress seems tentatively interested in
reigning in, are more restrictive than that.
So the question comes up: what's so bad about that? The media
conglomerates provide programming that entertains a measurably vast
majority of the citizens of this country. Why shouldn't they be allowed to
make as much money as they can doing it?
As background, I can do nothing better than point to the following
extended quote from Jamie Kellner, chairman and CEO of Turner
Broadcasting. While he was specifically referring to the use of
Personal Video Recorders that allow you to skip commercials ("spots"
in the vernacular), I think it sheds some light on how these
stewards of the public airwaves would prefer to conduct business:
"Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're
going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on
an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch
the button you're actually stealing the programming."
"I guess there's a certain amount of tolerance for going to the
bathroom. But if you formalize it and you create a device that skips
certain second increments, you've got that only for one reason, unless
you go to the bathroom for 30 seconds. They've done that just to make it
easy for someone to skip a commercial."
Let's be frank here: I have no contract with the network, and if I did, it
wouldn't be smart of me to give up my ability to go to the bathroom just to
watrch another episode of "Angel".
The fact is, they're not just interested in money, they're interested
in removing any and all barriers that exist to their making more of it, and
throwing up as many barriers as possible to any personal rights that may
result in their making less of it. Which I suppose, ultimately, *is* a way
of saying they're only interested in money.
Kellner's pull-quote is an example of that. It betrays an attitude that
regards personal freedoms as a good idea, maybe, but not if they reduce the
bottom line. If there's a restriction on him that harms that, he's against
it. If there's a restriction on people that works on his behalf, he's for
it. He's solely focused on his business case, regardless of whose choices
get stomped on along the way.
That attitude has left us with corporations that perform as headless
monsters, about as intelligent as moss that only knows to grow in the
direction of moisture. These monsters only know how to grow in the
direction of money, and are completely unaware of any other incentive
(corporate citizenship, making the world a better place, etc., etc.) that
might endear them to the people by whose will, both regulatory and
market-wise, they exist in the first place. That's why we'd best not
release the pressure on Congress to get the current FCC tenor changed, not
to mention keeping up the pressure on corporate reform. We are the people
from whom the power of our government derives, but we've allowed ourselves
to become absentee landlords.
It's safe to assume that Mr. Kellner's opinion is indicative of many in the
media world. Perhaps it would be best to be sure they are keenly aware that
their ability to broadcast their shows and their commercials has been
granted by the good will of the people of this country.
As I said, I have no contract with the network. They, however, have a
contract with us; the government, in the form of the FCC, is supposed to be
acting as an agent on our behalf, so it appears reminders are due all around.
As they say in driving class, "It's not a right, it's a privilege."
And (admittedly, with difficulty) it can be taken away if it is abused.
And as for Kellner personally, the jerk cancelled Animaniacs,
Freakazoid, and Pinky & The Brain. There's no hell hot enough for the
likes of him.
©2003 Sean Carolan
All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.
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