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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

because our mass media corporate overlords are insane

Came home this afternoon from a non-movie-related client meeting, flipped on the TV as background for the next few hours’ writing, and discovered an announcement from my cable company, Cablevision:

• ABC is threatening to pull the plug on WABC-7 unless Cablevision and its customers agree to pay millions of dollars in new fees. Cablevision has asked ABC to continue delivering WABC-7, but instead ABC is holding Cablevision customers hostage by threatening to pull its programming.
• In these difficult and challenging economic times, it is not fair for ABC to force Cablevision and its customers to pay what amounts to a new TV tax for the same programming that is available today for free over the air and on the Internet.
• Cablevision already pays ABC’s parent company more than $200 million per year to carry its channels; now ABC wants a 20 percent fee increase for exactly the same programming.
• It is wrong for ABC to demand $40 million in new fees to help pay the salaries and bonuses for top ABC executives.
• Cablevision has tried in good faith to reach a fair agreement with ABC. In fact, top Cablevision executives traveled to ABC offices in California earlier this month, and had lengthy face-to-face meetings this week in Bethpage and New York City. We have made numerous proposals, all of which have been rejected.

ABC’s side is here. Its argument appears to be “waah!”
We Cablevision customers went through this recently with HGTV and The Food Network, in which case those channels were actually pulled from the lineup for three weeks. I never noticed, actually, because I never watch those channels.

The only thing I watch on ABC is Lost — and even that is trying my patience — though I’d hate to miss the Oscars on Sunday. But I’d be pissed if ABC was yanked… pissed at both ABC and Cablevision, miserable fucking bastards, the lot of ’em. I’m pissed at ABC’s greediness, and I’m generally pissed at Cablevision for lacking lots of channels and services that Time Warner Cable offers (like BBC America and tons of free on-demand). I’m pissed at the cable environment overall, where the enforced local monopolies means that while Time Warner is on offer in other NYC boroughs, it isn’t here in the Bronx; and where I cannot choose the channels I want à la carte (honestly, I don’t need The Home Shopping Network, whatever horrible channel The 700 Club is on, or Fox News). And I’ll have a new reason to be pissed at Cablevision: I’ll have to start fighting for a partial refund on my monthly cable bill (“You’re not carrying one of the major three broadcast networks? Cough it up.”)

I know, I know: It’s just TV. It’s a stupid thing to be complaining about with people fighting over food and water in Chile and people in Haiti are still living in tents and health care reform is a sick joke. But it’s symptomatic of how huge corporations dominate in our culture, and I think it is worth taking note of.

On the other hand, it could be interesting to see what happens if it turned out enough people simply didn’t care if Cablevision stopped carrying ABC, if everyone decided we could watch Lost online (at least until Cablevision, which also provides my Internet access, blocks ABC.com). It’d be like two assholes beating the shit out of each other over a gal because each of them sincerely believes she’s gonna be impressed by this and throw herself at him. And instead she shakes her head and tells the idiots to enjoy each other’s company, because it’s all they have.

This has been your WTF Thought for the Day.

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