Thursday, April 20, 2006

TV Wars

You may have seen the full page ads in the Portland Press Herald this past week and wondered why someone would spend large amounts of money to apparently attack the Cable TV industry. So, who are the people behind these ads which ask, "How much did you 'tip' your cable TV company every month?"

Let's find out.

I for one am outraged at the cost of cable in my town of Augusta, ME, especially given the atrocious service and almost annual fee increases. BTW, I am now paying $75 per month for the pleasure of having digital basic. No internet, no premium channels, no "TiVo" - basically broadcast, about 200 garbage channels and "nothing on..." When I started this level of service about five years ago, the price was around $60 per month, about $10 more than the previous, non-digital service. And there has been no positive change in the service. If anything, there are now fewer choices (see my previous rant). Oh, wait a second, we now have "On Demand" which lets me watch repeats from DIY whenever I want.

The people behind the full page ad are calling themselves TV4US and have a website at . Apparently was being used by a German company that sells kiosks.

A little snooping and I found an article in The Hill - "the newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress." In their article, Phone Companies Battle for TV Access it looks like the telephone companies may be behind this, at least in part:

The effort by the major telephone companies to pump television programming into consumers' homes over the companies' own networks has become a politicized issue for lawmakers facing reelection.

TV4US, a coalition of 30 companies and interest groups led by AT&T and the National Association of Manufacturers, is pressing selected members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support franchising legislation.

The article goes on to point out that there is a movement afoot in Congress to pass legislation to allow the telcos access to this effort by revising FCC regulations written in the 1960s at the beginning of the Cable TV industry. The article suggests an uphill climb for similar efforts in the 1990 failed.

Few lobbyists expect Congress to pass legislation this year because the franchising issue forces lawmakers to choose between the cable and telephone industries, picking winners and losers. But postponing a choice lets lawmakers play the cable and telephone industries off each other to rake in campaign contributions, some on K Street suggest.

Given the intensity of the rivalry between the industries, a telecom lobbyist said, the scenario is "a dream match-up" for lawmakers' fundraising.

"They can milk this through the year," he said. "It's the oldest parlor game in D.C. to play industries with deep pockets against each other."

But a new bill may have more success since there are several states where reform has already taken place.

We'll be watching


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