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Thursday, November 18, 2010

US Senator Jay Rockefeller Wants You to Stop Looking Over His Shoulder

US Senator Jay Rockefeller wants you poster 
Graphics by Bobby Coggins

Among the things that I can agree with Senator Rockefeller on, is that the cost of subscribing to Cable and Satellite TV have gone through the roof, and that Cable and Satellite providers are not fair when it comes to carriage of retransmissions of local and independent TV Stations. 

Among the areas that I disagree with him is his belief that the government should be involved in fixing the problems by force and the idea that the government can mandate quality TV programming. Just how does he imagine that he can do that? 

Some people consider Wrestling as quality entertainment. I hate it and think that the people who like it are mentally deficient and emotionally broken people. I also belief that this is a free country (or was, the last time I looked) and if people ant to rot their brains by watching crap, that is the right. I simply don't watch it. 

I'm sure that there are people who think that the things I like to watch is crap. They don't have the right to try to tell me what I can and cannot watch anymore than I can them, or an uppity US Senator from West Virginia named Jay Rockefeller does. The difference is that the US Senator happens to have a bully pulpit and some measure of power to get things done. 

anyway, here is the video that started this whole rant, and a more complete copy and transcript is below that. 

I think that the biggest part of our problem is that people want their news delivered in sound bites rather than in more complete portions. This is a pet peeve of mine, and a big reason that when I cover the meetings of the local governing bodies in Macon County, that I do it as completely as I can. I try my best not to misrepresent what a local politician says, even if I can get political mileage out of it, in the interest of providing a more complete record of what they've said and done. 

I happen to think that it is a crime that most news programs are only 30 minutes in length, and most news stories are very incomplete snapshots that last, at most, two or three minutes. That is the real travesty.

I can't get my head around what he really wants just by this very short sound bite of his comments. I certainly sounds like that he doesn't want people to be engaged in paying attention to what our supposed servants in the government are doing. It sounds like he doesn't want us looking over his shoulder, and he would be willing to shut down news stations in order to do that.

I looked around to try and find a more complete video of his comments. I found his opening remarks at the Senate Commerce website, and here they are...along with a transcript of what he said, and you can judge for yourself what his intentions are:

Here is a transcript of the remarks:

Television is a powerful force. But I believe the system we have for developing television content, packaging that content, and distributing it to consumers is broken. It may serve companies well. But it does not serve us well as consumers. And I believe it serves us even less well as citizens. Let me explain why.

When it comes to developing content, our entertainment machine is too often in a race to the bottom. Even worse, our news media has all but surrendered to the forces of entertainment. Instead of a watchdog that is a check on the excesses of government and business, we have the endless barking of a 24-hour news cycle. We have journalism that is always ravenous for the next rumor, but insufficiently hungry for the facts that can nourish our democracy. As citizens, we are paying a price.

When it comes to packaging content, why do consumers have to order so many channels? Why do we have to pay for so many when our households watch so few? The old adage of 500 channels and nothing on has never been so true as it is today.

When it comes to delivering content, why do we pay so much? The Federal Communications Commission tells us that from 1995 to 2008 the average monthly price of popular cable service increased more than three times the rate of inflation. No wonder consumers are cutting the pay television cord in record numbers. They are turning back to over-the-air television and turning on to programming over the Internet. They are tired of paying rates that go up so much every single year.

In our hearing today, we do not get at the root of these problems. That is a broader discussion that we need to have. Indeed, it is a conversation that we owe to the citizens of this country. But today’s hearing is important and timely because we make a good faith effort to address one of the symptoms of these broader concerns. We will talk about retransmission consent.

This is a policy that allows local broadcasters to negotiate with cable and satellite companies for carriage of their local stations. When it works, consumers see their local broadcast stations on their cable and satellite systems. But when it fails, consumers are saddled with dark screens and denied access to local news and sports programming. This is what happened to millions of television viewers in New York who turned on their sets to watch the World Series—but were stuck without service.

So let me caution our witnesses today: if you fail to fix this situation, we will fix it for you. But when we do, we will seek to do more than referee your corporate disputes. Because more than just retransmission consent ails our television markets. We need new catalysts for quality news and entertainment programming. We need slimmed down channel packages that better respect what we really want to watch. And we need to find ways to provide greater value for television viewers at a lower cost. Because people are tired of always escalating rates.

Thank you to our witnesses for being here today. In closing, let me also say that I appreciate the interest Senator Kerry has shown regarding retransmission consent. I thank him for his willingness to lead this hearing today.

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