Monday, October 24, 2011

Pardon the interruption

I was watching the football game on Fox yesterday, and noticed an advertisement mentioning that Fox is in a contract dispute with DirecTV. You probably know that most cable channels charge cable and satellite operators a carriage fee to show the various channels. From time to time we get content proiders (the cable channels) arguing with various transmission media over just how high or low those fees should be. The upshot is that the current contract between DirecTV and NewxCorp, Fox's parent company, apparently runs out at the end of October, with no agreement currently reached. If there is no agreement reached, then on November 1, DirecTV won't be carrying all those channels in the Fox family. (I don't think that the Fox broadcast network is affected.) For those of us who are fans of classic films and have DirecTV, the main thing is that it means the possible loss of the Fox Movie Channel.

The optimistic news, however, would be that this affects a bunch of channels. FMC is probably of fairly limited appeal other than to those of us who like old movies. But the contract dispute also involves the local Fox Sports Net channels, and sports fans are rabid enough that they'll probably force somebody's hand. To be honest, though, Comcast tried to shaft DirecTV a few years back over carriage of the Versus channel, and that dispute dragged on for quite some time -- I think close to half the hockey season.

The way that the cable channels, the cable operators (and to a lesser extent satellite operators), and local TV stations have tried to use the government's power to screw up people's lives to get them to use that power to screw up somebody else's life is an interesting one that author Virginia Postrel discussed for a 2000 piece in reason magazine. Parts of it are out of date, and it doesn't so much cover that some cable operators also own cable channels and use that power to shaft either other channels or other operators (Comcast/Versus). And who recalls that the cable companies tried to prevent satellite from carrying the local broadcast channels?

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