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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: television

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April 24, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Poll: Do you want Aereo to expand to Seattle?

Aereo’s brush this week with the Supreme Court of the United States is just the latest example of how technology continues to disrupt the status quo. (For background on what happened, read The Associated Press’ news report)

In this photo illustration, Aereo.com, a web service that provides television shows online, is shown on an MacBook Air, on April 22, 2014 in New York City. Aereo is going head-to-head against ABC, a major television network, in a court case being heard by the Supreme Court. (Photo Illustration by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Aereo.com, a web service that provides television shows online, is shown on an MacBook Air, on April 22, 2014 in New York City. (Photo Illustration by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

In this case, you have a bunch of broadcasters (led by ABC) who want the justices to shut down Aereo to preserve their business models. Understandable. The start-up charges its subscribers a fee, then provides access to over-the air television programming that is very expensive (for the networks) to produce. Aereo doesn’t pay retransmission fees.

No, what Aereo is doing is probably not right. But it’s innovative, and you can’t fault the company for responding to consumer demands for television that can be viewed on computers and doesn’t cost a fortune every month.

When disruption occurs, it seems regulators are always pressured to crack down on the offenders.

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Comments | Topics: aereo, supreme court, television

March 31, 2014 at 6:02 AM

FCC should curb TV media consolidation by closing loophole

Watch what the Federal Communications Commission does on Monday. For the first time in years, the panel should move to slow down media consolidation by closing a loophole that has allowed a handful of the nation’s largest broadcasters to skirt laws limiting station ownership.

No surprise, the broadcast industry is vehemently opposed to ending the practice of Joint Sales Agreements, but this sort of business tactic (covered in-depth by The Wall Street Journal) has diminished local ownership and allowed a small number of big players to control the flow of information over huge swaths of the country.

Local television news is at risk of becoming more about profits for out-of-town corporate bosses than about informing communities with quality news. Why should viewers care about any of this? The fewer owners there are in broadcast news, the fewer perspectives will be featured on the public airwaves. Some argue it makes business sense for the industry to combine operations to be more efficient. But at what cost? With consolidation, women and minority ownership has dropped.

The Seattle Times weighed in on the JSA issue in a March 3 editorial, and encouraged the FCC to follow the advice of the U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-trust attorneys:

Federal attorneys advised the FCC to better scrutinize every deal that comes before its five-member panel. The regulators should force companies to report when they operate multiple stations jointly in the same market, as they already do for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Failure to account for the effects of such arrangements can create opportunities to circumvent FCC ownership limits and the goals those limits are intended to advance,” Justice Department officials wrote.

Consolidation shrinks newsrooms and deprives viewers of in-depth journalism that speaks truth to power. The FCC has failed miserably to protect the integrity of the public’s airwaves through promoting competition, local ownership and diverse viewpoints.

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Comments | Topics: fcc, free press, joint sales agreements