Stick 'Em Up

A Cablevision/Disney deal was predictably struck a little past the "eleventh hour" last night.

These guys should get their own special Academy Award for drama.

Welcome to America!

My television career began sixty years ago when I joined Screen Gems International. We sold the television content and feature films owned by Columbia Pictures to overseas broadcasters.

We tried to sell our programs for as much money as possible, and the overseas broadcasters tried to buy the programs for as little as possible. Sadly for the content industry at that time there was a larger supply of programs than there were buyers for the programs and the prices were depressed.

The word "fair" was used a lot by both buyers and sellers and everyone who used the word realized that it had no meaning whatsoever.

It was about thirty five years ago that I accompanied my boss John Mitchell on a trip to Australia where John had been invited by Kerry Packer, the owner of the Nine Network, to play golf in the Australian open with Jack Nicklaus.

We had a meeting with Kerry Packer and he told John that the prices paid for American-filmed content were increasing out of control and asked John to use his influence to create "an orderly marketplace" with small increases in prices every year or two.

John told Kerry that the US Networks were not charging enough from advertisers and that they were making a big mistake in that the advertisers had no choice but to use network television.

Kerry replied that he increased his prices every couple of months and that the advertisers had no choice but to pay what he wanted.

I swallowed hard and asked Kerry what had happened to "the orderly marketplace" theory that he had espoused and why were things different when he was selling then when he was buying.

He thought for a moment or two and replied: "Norman, this is about MY MONEY, that's why."

He was at least honest about the question.

My 2010 observation of this process has been distorted to favor "almost all of those involved in the production and distribution of programs" to obtain as much money from the powerless consumers worldwide as they possibly can.

Now how complicated is that. Those responsible are the Congress, the Presidents, the courts and all of those public interest groups like the FCC and the anti-trust division of the Justice Department.

Details about this probably overboard statement are for another time. It is nevertheless interesting to just look at the concentrated power in the media of General Electric/NBC, Disney/ABC, News Corp/Fox, Time Warmer and Viacom/CBS.

Also there are the "public interest cable companies" like Comcast and Cablevision historically taking advantage of their monopoly positions. There are now satellite and telephone companies competing with cable while working hard to extract money from consumers as thoroughly and rapidly as possible as well.

For fifty years and for a variety of reasons in addition to the power of campaign contributions, "the public interest" has been an expression that the powerful use when they get what it is that they want from the system.

Extortion is defined as: the oppressive or illegal exaction, as of excessive price or interest.

The "big" invariably find a way to extort money from the "small."

Those great humanitarians at the Walt Disney Company are engaged in a "pissing contest" with Cablevision that will deny ABC's broadcast signal to Cablevision subscribers starting today unless Cablevision pays Disney $12 Million a year for each of the 3 million subscribers served by Cablevision.

There are no "good guys" in this battle and both parties are anxious to obtain from the public as much as possible for providing cable delivery for something that is available to ALL of the subscribers over the air without cost. Boy is that ever a puzzlement.

Wanna blame someone?

Blame the regulators, blame the Congress, blame all of our recent Presidents, and above all blame the process that allows money to speak for the powerful and leaves no one to speak on behalf of the public interest.

Just to whine about the process my annual payments to Time Warner Cable including internet, telephone and pay services are almost three thousand dollars a year.

Now how about that!