TV Regulation Mess

If my blog was a satellite TV station, the following would be illegal:  Investigators Slam Katrina Response.  (hint - answer is NOT in the attached article, which is random)
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I'm sorry, did you miss it?  What did I do that was so wrong?  What I did was let you view content directly from a national content provider.  In the past, Reuters traditionally distributed its content through local distribution arms called newspapers.  This distribution model was required based on old technologies, where printing was a local not a national business.  Now that new technologies allow content providers to distribute their material nationally without these intermediaries, many have chosen to do so, as does Reuters at their web site.  This is one of the many reasons why newspapers today are struggling.

The TV business has historically had the same business model for roughly the same technological reasons.  National content providers (e.g. NBC, CBS) distributed content through local affiliates because broadcasting technologies were very local.  Today, with Satellite and cable, it is perfectly easy for anyone to access the national feeds, like you did in reading the Reuters site above.  EXCEPT, the US Congress has outlawed this practice.  Satellite providers, with a few exceptions for rural viewers, cannot provide viewers with the national feed -- it is illegal.  Unlike with print media, Congress has succumbed to powerful interest groups in the local TV market to protect their dying business model. 

As a result, DirectTV has satellites in space using up bandwidth by broadcasting 50 or more nearly identical copies of the same national feed, because it is forced to use the local affiliate's feed for each local market.   One of many adverse results is that while the price of print content has fallen to nearly zero, the price of broadcast content goes up.  And, from a personal standpoint, I nearly killed myself adjusting an old fashioned TV aerial on my roof last night because that is the only way I can get NBC's Olympics HDTV content, since my satellite provider can't afford to duplicated hundreds of local stations to get the networks on satellite in HDTV under the current asinine rules.  And I refuse to get cable because it was in large part for exactly this reason, to force customers away from satellite to cable, that the must-carry and related rules were passed, and I refuse to give them the satisfaction.

Postscript:  By the way, the Reuters article linked is worth reading too.  Take this snippet:

Richard Skinner, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland
Security, told the committee that FEMA purchased 24,967 manufactured
homes at a cost of $857.8 million to temporarily house Katrina victims.
But most of those homes are unused and the government is paying to
store them, he said.

Nearly 11,000 are sitting are sitting at a
government site in Hope, Arkansas, and are deteriorating because they
were improperly stored, he said.

  • Doug G.

    I think this is an example of where government regulation is so clearly insane, the market will ultimately route around the regulation. Specifically, programming of a non-local nature is going to migrate away from traditional broadcast networks to cable stations. ESPN-HD is available nationwide on DirecTV, and DirecTV does not have to carry a duplicate of it for every local market.

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