Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Haunting Refrain

I understand the band played while the Titanic sank. It’s a romantic thought, a group of people, consciously ignoring their own peril, giving false comfort in a time of despair. I could never see myself tooting a French horn in the most extreme moment, rather I would have been kicking and scratching to make sure I got on the damn life boat. But that’s just me, I’m a hopeless cynic.

Ohio went down and the most important thread was which cameras were most efficient and cost effective. Now the PEG folks in Ohio will be bankrupted by transmission costs and completely de-funded by 2012, if not sooner due to that opt-out clause in the bill, but at least they’ll be informed about the differences between Panasonic and Canon. Thank God.

And while the assaults continue some have the bright idea that streaming video is salvation. Tell that to ESPN. I’m guessing they’ve done their research and understand too well that people are not watching less television, they are watching more. You heard me, more hours of sitting in front of the tube, not less. It’s called “multi-tasking.” The cutting edge of technology is that people sit in front of their tv’s with their laptops and do both, surf the web and flip channels. Meanwhile the logic on the street is that PEG will survive if it can figure out a way to use the internet to communicate. Isn’t that making the at&t “you don’t need a channel we’ll just put you on the internet” argument for them? Or is that just drinking the Kool-Aid?

Years ago there was this meeting in Tucson in which we tried to discern the future. The intelligent folks gathered in that room came to an ultimate conclusion that whatever happened we would ride that horse until it was frothing at the mouth. Who knows? Maybe we failed to communicate that commitment.

Everyone is weary, I think. It’s been a long haul. Few have the tenacity of Barb Popovic in Chicago to fight for the best statewide franchising bill that has been passed. And then there’s the line up of the stars in the state houses that begins with the lining of the pockets in the state houses, you can’t hardly beat that most times, especially when you can’t match the cash.

But at some point you just gotta rope-a-dope.

Catherine Rice of North Carolina points out that since they passed statewide franchising that was bought and paid for by at&t there have been eighty-nine statewide franchises sought, all by incumbent cable operators. Competition is a mighty thing and I have no doubt that Time Warner will bring down its prices now that it has a statewide franchise to challenge Time Warner.

The beauty of the North Carolina debacle is that it poses a real chance to get the legislation they passed almost two years ago repealed. It ain’t working, the Attorney General hates it and there’s a provision that the legislature has to re-visit the topic come next term. A concerted effort in North Carolina could serve as an example elsewhere. Remember, these statewide bills are just pieces of legislation not Constitutional Amendments.

At the beginning of this blog a million years ago I wrote about the state-by-state strategy mainly because I have witnessed that same strategy used in so many other issues. It’s slow, it’s costly, but is ultimately easier than trying to find a federal solution. And frankly at&t is coming ever closer to folding up their cable tent and Verizon has gotten more franchises than they can possibly build into the foreseeable future, there are tangible opportunities waiting.

Let’s just not go there. Instead let’s spend time in the geek-o-rama world putting our energy into endless discussions about open source web creation software and whether or not we should charge for studio rental. Is it just me or do you hear the leadership vacuum sucking loudly away?

Meanwhile Ohio is gone despite the valiant effort of the access television folks on the ground and there was hardly a whimper from their colleagues in more progressive circles like the much touted, so-called “media reform” movement. They’re too busy uncovering the scandalous attempt by Rupert Murdoch to purchase the Dow Jones, as if he’s going to turn the Wall Street Journal into some kind of capitalist right wing rag. For shame.

Erma Bombeck once said that had the women on the Titanic known what was going to happen they would have ordered dessert. Great idea. I’ll take my Sundae with extra fudge and whipped cream, please. Oh, and make the ice cream chocolate.

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