TV Networks: A Viewer Held Hostage

By Melissa Minners

            Iím angry!  For years, I watched television without having to pay for it.  All I needed was a set of rabbit ears (adjustable antennae) on the back of my TV and some creative ingenuity regarding how to make those rabbit ears give me the best reception possible.  Later, there was the aerial antennae and I was able to pick up my favorite channels even clearer than before. 

            Unfortunately, when I moved out on my own, I discovered that sometimes antennae donít do the trick and you need something more.  That was when I was forced to start paying for cable television.  In the beginning, basic cable cost me $20.00...thatís right, just a twenty spot for basic channels that I used to be able to watch with my trusty rabbit ears plus quite a few I had never received before.  It was nice, but every year the price for that basic cable went up.

            Then came the news that we would be going to digital programming.  Anyone with rabbit ears or aerial antennae were either going to have to switch to cable or buy a converter box.  Most people I know begrudgingly switched to cable.  And thatís when it happened - regular networks like FOX and ABC which used to be free for the public and relied on advertising for funding began holding us hostage.

            It all began with FOX, HGTV and The Food Network.  Their contracts were about to expire with Cablevision and they wanted Cablevision to pay them more money to air their networks.  Now, I canít fault HGTV or The Food Network as they were always channels exclusive to cable, but FOX - well, that channel (channel 5 where I come from) was free until this digital programming thing went into effect. 

            While HGTV and The Food Network pulled their broadcasting after talks with Cablevision came to a halt, FOX ran commercials warning their viewers that the ďevilĒ Cablevisionís lack of bargaining would cause them to lose some of their favorite shows as the channel prepared to pull its broadcasting.  Viewers started freaking out - no more Glee, Bones, 24, Family Guy, House, So You Think You Can Dance and more!  Oh no!  How dare Cablevision take away their favorite shows!  

            When that mess was settled between all parties involved and all was right with the world again, another announcement was made - ABC was going to go off the air if big bad Cablevision didnít start paying for their broadcasting.  Here we go again!  No more Greyís Anatomy, Lost, The Bachelor, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, etc.!  How dare that evil Cablevision!

            But wait!  Hold the presses!  Somethingís wrong here.  Why is Cablevision getting all the blame?  ABC is just another one of those channels that were free in the non-digital programming era.  Why is it that they, and other stations like them, are demanding to be paid now?  Iíll tell you why - digital programming.  As I said earlier, when the world converted over to digital programming, most people purchased subscriptions to cable television rather than dealing with the hassles of a digital converter.  That means that cable companies began making a rather large profit from this digital programming thing.  And guess who was watching - once free channels like FOX, ABC, CBS, WB, NBC, etc. and they donít like it one bit.

            Now, you may be saying to yourself - hey, the WB, CBS and NBC havenít done this yet.  Well, do you think ABC would have tried this ploy if it didnít work for FOX?  If ABC wins this, all of your previously free networks will join in, holding their hands out to Cablevision for a pay-off.  Guess who will be funding this pay-off: your average consumer.  Thatís right people, you and I will be paying for this just like we pay extra in our electric bill for that companyís upgrades, our phone service for that companyís upgrades, etc.

            Wise up, folks!  Donít let the networks hold you hostage!  Take the reins and tell them that we donít have the kind of money to be paying through the nose for every service out there.  These big networks donít really care about their viewers, they care about the bottom line - the dollar bill and how many of those they can stockpile for their executives.  Us little folk and what we want - that doesnít matter. 

            Now, I donít know about you, but if I want to watch ABC shows and they go off the air, Iíll just head to the computer and watch them online.  And if they start banning free access to their shows online, then I guess theyíll be losing another viewer.  See, I can live without television, mindless or otherwise.  I read, watch movies, play video games and play basketball and baseball when the weather is nice.  I donít need TV to keep me entertained and neither should you.  Rise up and say NO to TV Networks holding us hostage!  They make enough money in advertising.  They donít need to make more through extortion of the cable companies who will just take that money from our nearly empty wallets!


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