Keep cable from abusing its power

(via Benton Foundation)

[SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer, AUTHOR: Jeff Gelles]

There's a good article here, commentary from Philly.com, that lays out some of the key issues with Big Cable's power over the consumer (and citizen) in the battle over Big Cable–and Big Telecom's increasing–control of the "pipes" that bring content in American households. This is one of the key issues to pay attention to over this coming year with the telecom act rewrite currently taking place in Congress:

Right now, cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner own the primary pipeline through which a majority of American households get their television programming.

That same pipeline is often a consumer's best or only high-speed, or "broadband," route to the Internet.

The effects of cable's dominance are made clear in a recent report by Jonathan Rintels of the Center for Creative Voices in Media.

As Rintels documents, Comcast and its counterparts act as gatekeepers who choose whether a new channel gets carried on cable's primary "tier," the one that includes such mainstays as ESPN, CNN and MTV. Increasingly, Comcast says yes only to channels in which it has a financial stake. That's probably why the America Channel and Current don't make the cut.

Meanwhile, cable companies aggressively seek to control "must-have" local content – the strategy that gives Comcast a lock on Philadelphia sports fans. Comcast SportsNet carries most Phillies, Sixers and Flyers games. Relying on a loophole in federal law, Comcast refuses to sell the channel to its satellite competitors.

Does that leave many of us angry and frustrated? You bet.

And it doesn't help that nearly 10 years after cable companies lost their right to exclusive local franchises and prices were deregulated, most cable companies still enjoy monopolylike status, and the cost of ordinary service has more than doubled. Not exactly a startling coincidence, is it?

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was going to change all this by ushering in a new era of competition. It hasn't worked.

Read the rest of the article here.

Also, check out Grassroots Cable Campaign for more info and ideas for local action here in Greater Boston. I think ACMEBoston should strongly consider signing up.

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One Response to Keep cable from abusing its power

  1. melissaptd says:

    There was an interesting article in today’s Globe in which Jennifer C. Kerr reported that Conservative groups in Washington are pushing for a la carte cable subscriptions in order to give parents (and others seeking indecency free television programming) control over what channels are a part of their cable package. Obviously the cable companies are opposed – but Charles Dolan, Chairman of Cablevision is not. According to the article he doesn’t believe it will be detrimental to providers in the long run. this does, however, as the article points out, potentially pose a threat to channels that can’t attract enough advertising.
    what the article doesn’t state, but is something to question — will this force alternative programming into an even dimmer corner?
    Isn’t fragmentation bad enough without giving people the choice to entirely shut out alternative perspectives — or even worse, for advertisers to be further pushed away from supporting alternative programming because it’s channels are no longer included in the cable packages?
    also reminds me of EPIC, which if you haven’t checked out, you should…EPIC (robinsloan.com/epic)

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