Friday, December 26, 2008

Be Careful What You Ask For

A few weeks back you may or may not remember the stink that those in power over at KELO-TV made regarding their negotiations with Dish Network about how much needed to be paid by the satellite TV provider to carry our local CBS affiliate. Not being a Dish subscriber because of some 100 year old trees in the line of site to the satellite, I didn't pay much attention to the story as it didn't affect me. It appears though that I am now being affected by a similar dispute between Sioux Falls' ABC affiliate KSFY and my cable provider Goldenwest whom has notified me that because of KSFY's payment demands, I may lose the channel as of 12/31.

When I was informed of this I did a little research and discovered that until just recently, most "over the air" (OTR) broadcasters like KSFY had given their signal to local cable companies for free but with their new demands, I would more than likely have to pay more to receive their ever increasing supply of crap.
Negotiations on a price for what's known as a "retransmission" agreement have failed so far. If new agreements or extensions to the existing free agreements are not reached by Dec. 31, KSFY and its popular ABC programs, such as "Desperate Housewives" and "Dancing with the Stars," could be dropped from the cable lineups of Garretson-based Alliance Communications, Clear Lake-based Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative (ITC), Highmore-based Venture Communications Cooperative and Woonsocket-based Santel Communications. Alternatively, if a deal is reached on a price, the cable companies are likely to pass the added cost on to their customers.

To be honest, I am not sure why local affiliates think that I should be required to pay for programming that they already give away for free with their OTR signal, but what the heck it is a free market right?

Back when the satellite companies first started carrying locals, folks would sign up using zip codes of friends or family in markets outside of the one they actually lived so that they could get their local channels for whatever reason. Say like me you were a Browns fan but lived in a Minnesota Vikings TV market, if you could convince the satellite company that your dish was mounted on a house in Cleveland, you would get Cleveland locals and as a result every horrible game that the Browns played.

Of course that practice was a big no-no because your actual locals would argue that you needed to support your neighborhood advertisers and that you needed your local news and weather. So as a result, they contractually made the satellite companies ensure that they only offered you out of market networks, and then only New York and LA stations, if your locals weren't available on the satellite or with an antenna.

Fast forward to today. Cash strapped KELO and KSFY are looking to get a few dollars from the TV providers and in turn their customers for providing a service that they also provide for free. As I mentioned before, since we are a free market society, should I then also be able to choose which channels I pay for?

With local tiny cable providers like Goldenwest this will not be possible as they don't even have the bandwidth to provide HD content let alone a selection of out of market locals, but if I have satellite or a major nationwide cable provider and I am being forced to pay for free network TV shouldn't I be allowed to choose which ones I receive? Why should I be made to watch our horribly produced local newscasts (can anybody say "Wheel of Felons"?) or have to watch another Kansas City Chiefs vs Denver Broncos game if I am being forced to pay for the privilege?

KELO and KSFY are within their rights to ask for compensation for their content so shouldn't I also have the right to chose whose content that I will pay for? I know that with powerful lobbying groups like the NAB and even the NFL whom controls everything that comes into your home, that this isn't possible but there is one thing I can chose. Paying extra for the constant stream of unwatchable newscasts and reality TV is something I will not do.

So the folks in charge at KELO and KSFY might want to be careful what they ask for as it will likely result in even fewer viewers than they have now. I can easily get the few network shows I enjoy as well as my weather forecasts online for free and will have no problem doing so.

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