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Tech at Night: How government picks winners and losers in broadcasting

Tech at Night

Conservatives often talk about how government picks winners and losers, but sometimes it’s important to discuss just how that is done. It’s easy to see in cases like Solyndra where government picks winners, but sometimes it’s harder to see when government is making one industry win at the expense of another.

Laws related to technology are full of examples like that, and tonight I’m going to illustrate two important ways government makes broadcasters winners at the expense of cable companies and content producers.

When the band Metallica famously went after freeloader culture by criticizing copyright infringers, alleged fans who were distributing Metallica’s works without consent, this was done because Metallica stood to gain every time a fan bought a CD. It’s only fair that Metallica should get a cut every time one of their CDs is sold, too. They, like the composers, producers, and marketers, had an important role in putting together that final product, so they, like the rest, get a share of the money.

Well, guess what? When an AM or FM radio station plays a Metallica song over the air, Metallica doesn’t see a dime as performers. Broadcasters only have to pay a royalty for the composition, not for the performance.

Naturally broadcasters defend this practice. Like the cheapskate business that approaches a freelance web developer or designer, claiming that “I can’t pay you but you’ll get great exposure!”, broadcasters claim that by not paying performers for their performances, they’re actually making those performers money. Right. So the broadcasters get cheap content and the performers get nothing. Winners and losers picked by government.

And you wonder why CDs costs so much. (Oh, remember when Pandora was flipping out about ‘fairness’? They were asking for the law to be changed to give them the same bennies).

But don’t worry, TV broadcasters also get some nice benefits. You see, when cable TV first came out, broadcasters got panicked. They were afraid of that competition. They’d been overpaid, underworked middlemen for a long time, making profits solely by virtue of owning government licenses to spectrum. But here came cable, seeking to undermine that. So lobbyists went to DC, and the results were amazing.

By law, cable companies are not allowed to shop around when trying to make a deal for broadcast network programming. By law they have to get ‘retransmission consent’ in order to put broadcast TV on cable, even though the same broadcast is free over the air. But they can’t just go to different stations in different cities, seeking bids and taking the best deal for their customers. Oh, no. By law they have to go to the local station. It’s a racket on par with the government-mandated beer distributorships. Lots of grease going around.

Well, guess who pays the price for that? Everyone who buys cable pays for it, but it’s worse than that. People blame the cable company for the prices, even though the cable company is simply having to pass along the monopolists’ rents being forced into the situation by government. So the broadcasters collect the profits while the cable companies take the PR hit. Winners and losers picked by government.

And you wonder why people hate Comcast.


Darrell Issa seems to be asking whether the Obama FTC is corrupt in its picking winners and losers.

Monday night I wrote about ECPA, a law related to email searches, and efforts to invent a right to privacy on third party servers continue.

Anarchists like to make excuses for their freeloading. They used to claim they distributed Game of Thrones illegally for want of a way to watch online. Well, HBO set one up with HBO GO, yet the blackshirts continue to infringe anyway. Freeloaders too lazy to get jobs, I guess.

Well this is odd: Somehow a Republican won a primary in Georgia while being to the left of the Democrat on Net Neutrality. What a shame.

Meanwhile Democrats in the House and Senate are trying to force the FCC even further left toward the most extreme fringe on Net Neutrality.

Hey NFL, if you want blackouts, enforce them yourselves. Use contract law. Our taxpayer dollars shouldn’t have to subsidize you sticking it to your fans. It’s none of FCC’s business whether your games are blacked out. Sell your own dang tickets, and leave our government out of it.

Hey, if the Senate wants to pass no NSA reform at all instead of the House bill, that’s fine with me.

T-Mobile is violating Net Neutrality principles by giving “free” bandwidth to people. The socialists want to take that away from T-Mobile’s customers. The Net Neuties want to rob us of choice and innovation.

Of course at the core of long-term wireless competition is rational spectrum policy.

Time Warner Cable can’t even do email. This is why they need taken over by Comcast. Everybody wins.

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