Tales of the Sausage Factory

MA Elects Public Access Programmer To U.S. Senate

Never underestimate the power of local media, although I can’t really say if this made a difference. But Senator-elect Scott Brown (R-MA) has his own public access cable show he uses to keep in touch with his constituents.

It shall be interesting to see if this has any impact on his approach to cable issues, although I suspect he is unlikely to get on a committee where this would matter.

Somewhat more seriously, it underscores the importance of staying in touch with your constituents, and the importance of PEG regardless of political allegiance. Brown won, among other reasons, because he actually went out and campaigned. This also wasn’t some clever act of pretending to stay in touch with constituents. Looking at his record here, he has been doing local cable show for years, and doing local events.

If one truth is emerging from the spate of special elections from NY-29 to last night’s MA race, it is that politicians cannot phone in their campaigns and expect the party affiliation (either their own or their opponent’s) to carry the day. Ya gotta work it. So the next time local cable access programmer asks for an interview, don’t snort “Wayne’s World, right” and blow them off. Take a lesson from Scott Brown — commitment to local media matters.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Cable, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Republicans Begin To Understand the Poitics of Fear (That They Won't Be Reelected): Senate Rejects Relaxation of Ownership Rules

One of the things the Republicans did when they controlled Congress was to set up a process by which Congress could directly overrule an administrative agency. Called a “Resolution of Disapproval,” it must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President like any other law. But the effect is to wipe away the agency action and restore the status quo to life before the agency action.

In 2003, when the FCC first relaxed the media ownership rules into practical non-existence, Congress was still firmly in Republican control. Mind you, many Republicans also disliked the FCC decision and wanted to see it overruled. Some disliked eliminating ownership limits because they understood that if a few companies control the news and therefore control public opinion, the own you forever. Others only hated the FCC relaxation of ownership rules because their constituents absolutely hated the relaxation of ownership rules and made that clear in no uncertain terms. But the Republican Congressional leadership stood staunchly with the Bush Administration (which backed the FCC’s decision to deregulate) and they prevented it from ever coming to a vote on the floor of the House.

Flash forward to now. Back in December, the FCC voted to relax the newspaper-broadcast cross ownership limit. Senator Dorgan introduced a Resolution of Disapproval back in March. Despite a strongly worded veto threat by the White House, the Senate passed the resolution last night in a near unanimous vote. I say “near unanimous” because it was a voice vote, which means that it is impossible to tell the exact number or who voted how, but that it must have had overwhelming support since no one asked for a roll call vote.

After years of exploiting the politics of fear, the Republicans are learning a politics of fear all their own. It does not matter that this was a Republican FCC, or that the Bush White House is threatening a veto. After two losses within two weeks in “safe” southern districts, the fabled Republican Party discipline is disolving into a mad scramble for the lifeboats. With the public in an ugly mood and conservatives now once again on the receiving end of “media bias,” no one wants to go on record proudly standing by “our beloved Commander and Chief” to defend Rupert Murdoch’s right to own as many newspaper/television combinations as he can grab.

It’s not over yet, of course. Not by a long shot. While I would certainly hope and expect that Pelosi will schedule a vote in the House as soon as possible, I also expect Bush will veto the bill. That would require the House and Senate to vote for an overide, which may prove a harder thing to do — especially once the President and his big media buddies start twisting arms and calling in favors. But while we can’t afford to grow overconfident or assume this fight is won, we can certainly feel both that the momentum is on our side and that we have accomplished something really huge here.

And, in my nasty neurons and snarky receptors, I am savoring the new “Republican politics of fear.”

Stay tuned . . . . .

Posted in Media Ownership, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Tiered Internet and “Virtual Redlining”

If Senator Stevens or Representatives Rush and Wynn ever thought about the impact of “tiered access” (or, as I prefer, Whitacre tiering) on rural areas and minority communities, they’d probably switch their votes. Because the flip side of charging for “premium” access is that the third party has to want to pay for it.

If you are a big company, will you pay extra to reach “undesirable” customers like rural customers or minority communities? Of course not! If you have to negotiate with every ISP for premium access, you are only going to want to pay for the “good” customers. And happily, because the ISP is under no requirement to protect customer privacy, the ISP can provide you with precisely the right target demographic.

Welcome to the new world of “Virtual Redlining.” Made possible by Senator Stevens, Bobby Rush and Al Wynn. I hope they have fun explaining to their constituents why, even when they buy the “high speed” pipe, their content downloads slower than the exact same content in the nice neighborhoods of NYC and LA.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

ALERT ON Tomorrow's Mark Up of Internet Bill (COPE)

Most folks reading this will have heard about the Communications Opportunity and Enhancements Act of 2006, aka COPE. I shall blog more thoroughly on this presently. For now, I want to focus on a narrow issue that may get lost in the shuffle: the efforts of Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) to accomplish for his telco masters what AT&T could not accomplish in his home state — killing muni broadband.

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Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)
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