Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hyman Humbug

Sinclair Broadcasting’s entire “NewsCentral” format is based on eroding the connection between producers of television and consumers. The whole idea is to produce a generic newscast on the cheap to be piped to everyone from Maine to California.

But apparently when it suits their purposes, Sinclair is willing to “get local.” A recent example is a “Point” editorial that you didn’t see on air unless you live in the Portland, Maine area. Hyman crafts an editorial that responds specifically to an editorial in a Portland paper that argues in favor of “a la carte” cable television service in which subscribers can choose what channels they want to receive rather than paying for a huge bundle of channels, many of which they might not want.

Hyman says “I have no interest in defending cable companies,” then proceeds to ask whether the Portland paper’s editorial board are “arrogant, hypocritical, or just plain dumb” to support a la carte cable.

Hyman’s lame analogy is that the newspaper’s logic would suggest that subscribers to the paper could just ask for the movie guide rather than subscribing to the entire paper. Of course, that ignores certain obvious facts, such as that there are many newspapers and parallel sorts of news sources that consumers can choose between. If you just want the movie guide, there are plenty of places to get that service without subscribing to the newspaper. But if you want any cable television at all (which is often the same as wanting to have television, period) you have to go through a single cable company (at least in most communities). What happened to the conservative viewpoint that competition was inherently good?

Hyman also ignores the fact that the
FCC recently reversed itself and is now in favor of a la carte cable services. And then there are the cultural conservatives who want to see more choice for subscribers so that parents who don’t want to have their children clicking on to “South Park” don’t have to have Comedy Central on their television.

In fact, about the only group who are adamantly opposed to a la carte cable are the cable companies whom Hyman says he has “no interest” in supporting.

But Hyman’s not leveling with us. If you don’t believe that Sinclair has a vested interest in the issue, how does one explain Hyman tailoring a specific commentary for a small market?

In fact, Sinclair Broadcasting must keep up good relations with cable companies, since the vast majority of their viewers get Sinclair-owned channels via cable systems. Yes, Sinclair and cable companies may butt heads from time to time, but they are ultimately on the same side: cable companies want subscribers to pay as much as possible for the services they provide, and Sinclair wants the maximum number of potential viewers it can get. Giving consumers more choice in what comes into their homes works against both of these goals.

To put it another way, how many viewers would actually choose to pay for the pleasure of seeing Hyman on their television screens?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 4.86


At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why Hyman is picking on Portland Press Herald like a bully. Did this newspaper criticize his right wing commentary?

At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it employees an ex girlfriend of his?

Doesn't seem to take much to get on his hit list.


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