Saturday, November 14, 2009

Squeezed in the Middle

At least that's the way it feels over here.

Have you seen the Stop the Tax and Help us Save Local TV commercials?

Let's face it, if you live in Canada, you probably can't miss them. No matter how hard you try.

They're beginning to get on my nerves. Actually, that's not quite true. They've been getting on my nerves for quite a while now.

At first I thought both sets of commercials were for the same thing. Even though I thought I was paying attention. They both spin quite well, meaning they both sound logical, seem to make a lot of sense. You really should go sign that petition, you know. Stop those greedy bastards from ripping us off yet again.

Turns out the question is - Which petition? And which bastards?

There are two petitions, you see. One for each side.

One saying that the cable and satellite companies are being unfair, not giving any of our money to local TV stations, which they will soon die out if something is not done. We will lost our local TV channels if we don't act now to stop the greed of cable. Or something like that...

The other tells us that the Big Networks like Global, CTV, CBC, etc are being greedy. They are raking in lots of money. And now the CRTC wants us to pay another tax of $10 per month to support them? Are you nuts? Or something like that...

Wait a minute. They can't both be right. Can they?

Hell if I know. Although Andrew Coyne seems to think so.
Yes, it is unfair that cable companies should get to use the broadcasters’ signals for free. And yes, it is outrageous that the broadcasters should be foisting another tax on the long-suffering television public (to say nothing of using their news programs to promote it): because if the cable companies are forced to pay the broadcasters for their signals, you can bet the consumer will wind up paying for it in the end.
And he has offers a solution too. Apparently only one that works in a "logical universe," though. Something about everyone compromising and sharing. And consumers not being forced to pay for channels they don't want.

Hey, wait a minute, that works for me! Which is likely why it's not too likely to happen here.

I do see that the Save Local TV movement is saying that the threat of a $5 -$10 monthly tax is bogus, that all they are looking for is to have the CRTC allow them to negotiate with the cable and satellite companies "a fair value for providing access to local television programming". And they ask the question "How can Rogers and other cable companies make claims to a cost they intend to pass on to you when negotiations have not yet occurred?"

But here's what else I see.

Both sides have done a good job in their efforts to sway public opinion their way. Maybe too good of a job. Which just goes to show how you can take the same set of supposed "facts" and spin them any which way you want. In this case, I think they have been spun so hard and so far by both sides that they have only succeeded in making the viewing public dizzy.

I watched those commercials for quite a while before I realized that something didn't quite fit right. Not only was there something I couldn't make sense of but I couldn't figure out what it was that was confusing me.

Eventually, I realized that I couldn't figure out who the local TV stations were that needed saving. No doubt, because in one set of commercials they were referred to as local TV and in the other they became the Big [Bad] Networks, the greedy bastards. So yeah, when you are so polished that all you do is confuse your brand with the other, I don't think you have accomplished too much.

Meanwhile, I ain't signing neither petition. Even though I tend to lean more towards the local TV point of view. Because my sense is that neither side can be trusted.

Or perhaps I should do as Andrew Coyne suggests and support them both, but only because they’re both wrong.

Only in Canada, eh?

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