Saturday, March 15, 2014

Broadcast Blues

I see the folks over at the Heartland Institute (a ‘Think Tank’, so you don’t have to) are whining over the fact that they might have to compete in the marketplace and not have their profits guaranteed for them the way they like it.

It’s just like these so-called free-market invisible-handers: you hear them spout those phrases like a meth addict asks strangers for money (every chance they get) but when it comes right down to it, they want the government to interfere – by making sure they get rich, and when that doesn’t happen, then somehow they’ve been screwed harder than Al Gore and Conan O’Brien put together[*].

The Heartland Institute, according to its webpage, is

“dedicated to finding[†] and promoting ideas that empower people.”

To do what, it doesn’t say. I mean, every third sentence is about less government, more freedom, same boilerplate argument you can get from any other Rabid-Wing quasi-political interest group. So that’s what they’re all about. 

They have an “Endorsement and Praise” page, just so you know they are really good at what they do. Funny[‡] how the endorsements are from the other Rabid-Wing quasi-political interests groups or politicians and others who owe their salaries to one or another different Rabid-Wing quasi-political interest group.

Anyhow, the article in question, written by Seton Motley, a policy advisor to Heartland, complains about the “STELA” bill that’s being worked on in D.C. STELA, which stands for “Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act”[§] is, according to Seton, “crucial to keeping satellite television subscribers connected to the shows they like”.

As someone who doesn’t watch much television, I’ll have to take his word for that. Except that it doesn’t do much at all for satellite subscribers connecting to their TV shows. What it does do is protect local, small-markets from having their advertising revenue diverted into the hands of larger ‘rebroadcasters’, who make money by retransmitting ‘distant signals’ (transmissions acquired from outside localities) into smaller markets (but not always smaller markets) and have no production costs to worry about.

In other words, this fight is about money. Surprised?

In this case we have someone who wants to make money off of someone else. And that someone else is okay with that, provided they are compensated fairly. And that’s the rub. The two parties disagree about how to define ‘fair’.

I couldn’t care less about who wins this fight. There is a reason you don’t see this issue come up during election cycles. The subject is technical and the arguments are nuanced. What bothers me is how the fight is framed.

Heartland would have you think it’s about that mean old federal government sticking its nose in everyone’s business. You know, boilerplate.

What Heartland, and apparently every other Rabid-Wing quasi-political interest group doesn’t seem to get[**] is that the mean ‘ol government is sticking its nose into everyone’s business. That’s right: we, the people, own the transmission spectrum collectively, not any self-interested business that sees a chance at making money off of them.

It would be like someone complaining that the damned bank is interfering in their efforts to make a living because they constantly place guards in front of the vault where the money is kept, stopping easy access to it. Bastards.

Yes, Indeed. The government is sticking its nose in everyone’s business, because this is everyone’s business.

[*] Now, you just go ahead and try to get that picture out of your head.
[†] Finding? Do they look between the cushions?
[‡] Funny in the same way diarrhea is funny.
[§] I know a guy who ran an illegal cable from his neighbor’s house to his. When he got caught, he claimed it was a ‘satellite television extension and localism act’, too.
[**] I think that’s on purpose.