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[P]
TiVo Use Might End Advertising, Free Up Our Airwaves

By dipierro in Op-Ed
Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:53:31 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Jamie Kellner, chairman of Turner Broadcasting System, recently spoke to the Television Critics Association and warned them that free TV in the United States may be coming to an end. I for one think this would be a great thing. Let me explain why.


Network television advertising accounts for approximately $20 billion in revenues for the networks. This accounts for approximately 100 million households, so Kellner's estimate of $250/year per household is certainly reasonable.

That $250/year may sound like a lot to pay for broadcast television, but when you consider the hidden costs of the current system, you might change your mind.

First of all, those $20 billion/year in advertising fees are ultimately paid by you and me. Every time you buy a product which is advertised on the television you pay a premium. It may be a few cents here and a few cents there, but even if advertising did not increase corporate profits the average household would still spend around $200/year extra (98% of households own televisions).

As if it wasn't enough that the television companies are claiming to provide a free service which you the consumer are ultimately paying for, they're doing it over the airwaves owned by that same public. One thing I didn't realize until doing research for this article is that television broadcasters receive the rights to the public airwaves absolutely free. So on top of the real cost, in terms of increased product prices, we the public are paying the opportunity cost of not being able to use the airwaves for a better purpose. When you think of that it's absolutely mindboggling that Kellner has the nerve to say that commercial skippers are the ones doing the "stealing".

Putting these issues of implementation aside, I think it is important to have some broadcast television freely available to the public. News and education dissemination are certainly goals which most of the public agrees is a worthy cause to allow the use of the public airwaves. The line between entertainment, news, and education is rather thin, and I don't think any legislation should try to draw it more clearly. But these functions need to be served with the public's interest kept as the goal, and not by corporations driven by profits.

I think the first step is to take all of the current television spectrum and allocate it to 2 or 3 channels given to non-profit charity institutions. If the demand from these institutions is higher, then more space could be allocated, but other than PBS and perhaps one or two other local stations I doubt there will be very much demand.

You might wonder why I don't favor direct government production of network television. The reason for this is I believe there would be too much danger of the station being used for government propaganda. Filtering the money through tax breaks and then into voluntary contribution or other transactions with non-profit charities seems to me to be a less dangerous alternative.

The rest of the spectrum I would allocate to three competing non-profit charity institutions which will implement IP broadcasting. Each of these institutions would then reallocate the bandwidth according to various methods. Some could be used for non-profit news, education, and entertainment dissemination. Some could be auctioned to one-way high speed wireless ISPs. Some could be re-auctioned on a packet-sized (and time-of-day based) basis directly to broadcasters who would need to encapsulate whatever content they are broadcasting into IP. For instance, encrypted pay-per-view television over IP would be one possible usage. After a year's test run, lease rates would be set to provide the government with revenues for the use of the public airwaves.

Admittedly, my plan is not completely worked out, but I feel it is much better than giving the public airwaves to billion dollar corporations to use for spreading propaganda and profiting off of it.

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Poll
What do we do with the television spectrum?
o What we're doing now. 5%
o Auction it off to for-profit corporations. 9%
o Use it for government run services. 1%
o Give it to non-profits. 14%
o Auction it off to non-profits. 2%
o Keep it unlicensed, free for all. 40%
o Other. 10%
o I'm not American and can't apply this to my situation. 14%

Votes: 111
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o warned
o $20 billion
o 100 million households
o 98%
o absolutely free
o Also by dipierro


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TiVo Use Might End Advertising, Free Up Our Airwaves | 116 comments (100 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
How bout (4.40 / 5) (#1)
by Bob Dog on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:07:05 PM EST

A euro-style public service channel funded by tax-money?


Too Orwellian for me... (3.00 / 1) (#2)
by dipierro on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:14:15 PM EST

In the poll that would fall under "Use it for government run services." But I think it's too dangerous that such a channel would be used for government propaganda. Filtering it the money through tax breaks and then into voluntary contribution or other transactions with non-profit charities seems to me to be a less dangerous alternative.

[ Parent ]
Why on earth (4.50 / 2) (#4)
by Bob Dog on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:20:13 PM EST

Would a goverment owned station be more likely to emit propaganda that a huge corporation like AOL/Whatever?  The private corporations or more specifically their owners have agendas too.


[ Parent ]
My solution was neither... (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by dipierro on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:23:47 PM EST

My solution was not to give the stations to for-profit corporations or the government, but to give it to non-profit charities such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS).

[ Parent ]
But . . . (4.00 / 2) (#8)
by acceleriter on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:33:42 PM EST

. . . PBS is primarily beholden to the government and large corporations for it's funding. "Viewers like you" are a drop in the bucket that help maintain the illusion of editorial independence. It's still propaganda--just aimed at higher foreheads.

[ Parent ]
PBS vs. the government vs. AOL (2.50 / 2) (#9)
by dipierro on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:44:54 PM EST

PBS is primarily beholden to the government and large corporations for [its] funding.

I'm almost positive that PBS no longer receives government funding. It is primarily funded by commercials, which indeed are merely propaganda points of mainly large corporations...

But there are two major advantages to non-profit broadcasters as opposed to for-profit ones. First of all, PBS has a responsibility to act in the best interests of the people. Secondly, any profits which they make must ultimately go to either another charity or the government. Finally (reason three of two), they cannot use their powers to influence a particular political ideology.

As for their advantages over government broadcasting, because they are forced to break even monetarily, at least they are forced to keep whatever propaganda they do spew to not be funded by the taxpayer. I believe this acts to limit the bias to some extent.



[ Parent ]
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by acceleriter on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:57:25 PM EST

which receives federal funds: http://www.cpb.org/tv/funding/ http://www.cpb.org/digital/funding/dig_funding.html

[ Parent ]
The federal funds... (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by dipierro on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 02:11:01 PM EST

were for the goverment mandated conversion to digital broadcasting, not for general programming. But you do make a good point.



[ Parent ]
So your saying... (3.50 / 2) (#43)
by Nick Ives on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 05:39:41 AM EST

...That the BBC is broadcasting New Labour propaganda? I do find this quite hard to believe. Whilst the BBC does tend to put its own definitive spin on things, its got so much respect amongst the UK public that if any party in power were to try to force it to emit propaganda there would be a media firestorm. Not only that but the way the BBC is setup means that its pretty much completely seperate from the workings of government, they just get taxpayers money. They are hardly even accountable for what they do with the money, which does cause some consternation whenever I see the subject on BBC parliment.

So basically all you need to do is setup a public service broadcaster in such a way that it cant be tampered with by central government, other than the fact that lots of the people high up in it will know the people in government, but the same can be said about the people at the top of large private companies too.

--
Nick
"it's not my site, I'm just the coder for it, so fuck it"

[ Parent ]

This isn't the UK (3.50 / 2) (#65)
by dipierro on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 12:23:17 PM EST

I'm not saying that the BBC wasn't able to do it, but the United States is a much different situation. I don't think it would work here. Just take a look at VOA News. For better or worse, that's what you'd get.

So basically all you need to do is setup a public service broadcaster in such a way that it cant be tampered with by central government, other than the fact that lots of the people high up in it will know the people in government, but the same can be said about the people at the top of large private companies too.

Well yeah, and here in the U.S. the way to set up a public service broadcaster which can't be tampered with by the central government is to set up a non-profit charity.



[ Parent ]
Look at the BBC (3.00 / 1) (#45)
by rdskutter on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 07:02:31 AM EST

BBC news is the most unbiased and most trusted news service in the whole world.

Yes they are biased and yes they do occassionally pander to "Daily Mail Reader" viewpoints but the reporting is mostly fair and well researched.


If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE
[ Parent ]

Eurodance! (2.00 / 1) (#51)
by Thinkit on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 10:02:06 AM EST

With Euro-tunes and a Euro-beat.  Thump thump thump.

[ Parent ]
Tivo Advertising (4.80 / 5) (#5)
by Paul Johnson on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:20:19 PM EST

Or it might wind up forcing you to watch adverts instead.

A few weeks ago there was an incident where the BBC paid Tivo to push a struggling sit-com onto the Tivos in the UK, even though the owners didn't want it. In this case the Tivo boxes were specifically instructed to put this programme at the bottom of their priority queues, so nobody lost something they wanted. But people still felt pretty aggrieved.

Fast forward another ten years, and you will see the PVR manufacturers tied up with the broadcasters. In order to be licensed to decode and record their broadcasts (remember the DMCA), all PVRs must not only record the adverts, but they must also play them. You can fast forward through the programme, but not the adverts.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

DMCA won't work (4.00 / 2) (#7)
by dipierro on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:25:58 PM EST

In order to be licensed to decode and record their broadcasts (remember the DMCA), all PVRs must not only record the adverts, but they must also play them.

Broadcast television cannot be encrypted, and it is quite likely that this rule will continue for the forseeable future.



[ Parent ]
Are you sure about that? (4.25 / 4) (#12)
by davidduncanscott on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 02:31:41 PM EST

I distinctly remember that two stations here in Baltimore (channels 50 and 54) were part of an ill-fated system of broadcast pay TV, and were therefore encoded. It collapsed, in part because UHF provided such a poor picture that people felt it not worth the money no matter how cheap it was, but I don't recall any legal barrier to the idea.

[ Parent ]
I guess that's already changed... (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by dipierro on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 02:49:29 PM EST

"When the DTV rules were being developed, the FCC decided to give broadcasters a great amount of flexibility to encourage their development of innovative services. The new FCC rules require broadcasters to provide at least one free video programming stream of at least the same quality we see today. Beyond that, they are free to offer a wide range of services that are "ancillary or supplementary" to their free video programming service. If they provide certain types of ancillary or supplementary services, like subscription channels, they must pay a fee of 5% of the gross revenues generated by those services to the U.S. Treasury." - http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/digitalpublicTV.html

[ Parent ]
Sounds like (3.50 / 2) (#14)
by davidduncanscott on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 03:07:43 PM EST

the restrictions are on digital broadcast TV, as distinct from broadcast TV per se. I know there are some sorts of restrictions on airing encrypted materials, such that I think Joe Ham isn't supposed to do so, but that others can be licensed. Any hams in the audience (Bruce Perens, maybe?) who can speak to that?

[ Parent ]
This will change (5.00 / 2) (#42)
by Paul Johnson on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 04:42:19 AM EST

The advert-supported channels are businesses. Once advertisers start seeing PVRs as a threat to the effectiveness of their adverts they will hammer the broadcasters, and both groups will lobby the politicians to change the law, arguing that unless people watch the adverts then the advertisers won't pay, and without advertisers the free-to-air TV market will die. Add in some large campaign contributions, and the law is as good as written.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

Who watches them anyway? (3.50 / 2) (#48)
by Empty_One on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 09:16:33 AM EST

With the advent of digital cable tv, and 200 or so channels, do people still waatch commercials?  I know I don't.  Everytime I feel a commercial coming on, I grab that remote, and get ready, because I know I have 2.5 minutes to surf around.  Yeah, I might see a few while I'm changing the channel, but not for more that 5 seconds or so.
:)

--
"Barney sucks! Best Buy sucks! Sony Sucks! Microsoft sucks, Bill Gates is the anti-Christ and John Ashcroft can kiss my ass!" Wil Wheaton
[ Parent ]
Corporate reasoning. (none / 0) (#109)
by vectro on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 01:02:18 AM EST

Apply the same analysis as for campaign finance. If large corparations didn't think they were getting value from advertising, why would they purchase it?

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Advertising (1.00 / 1) (#113)
by dipierro on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 10:28:34 AM EST

Apply the same analysis as for campaign finance. If large corparations didn't think they were getting value from advertising, why would they purchase it?

In other words, because their competition is doing it?



[ Parent ]
No, actually. (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by vectro on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 11:47:32 AM EST

At least with respect to campaign finance, contributions are often made as an industry, rather than as individual companies. And laws aren't allowed to target a specific person, anyhow. So if anything the tragedy of the commons would lead corporations to not make campaign finance contributions, because they'll already reap the benefits of their competitor's contributions.

With respect to advertising, you may have a point. In the current mental environment, it is nearly impossible to sell a product on any mass scale without advertising - especially TV advertising. If advertising were less prevalent, then it's possible this would be less of an issue, and advertising were not necessary.

But in any case, present-day businesses both advertise and make campaign-finance contributions because they believe both activities bring them value.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

"public airwaves" (3.20 / 5) (#15)
by klamath on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 03:45:21 PM EST

As if it wasn't enough that the television companies are claiming to provide a free service which you the consumer are ultimately paying for, they're doing it over the airwaves owned by that same public.
First off, television companies don't claim to provide a "free service", out of some sense of charity. They are trying to make money -- I don't think they would deny that, and attacking them for it is silly.

As for the airwaves being "owned by the public", why is that? Sure, there are a limited amount of frequencies through which data can be transmitted. But there is also a limited amount of useable land on the earth and a limited amount of natural resources like coal or oil. Just as two buildings cannot be built at the same physical location and two people cannot use the same nugget of gold for two different things, two radio stations cannot broadcast on the same frequency in the same geographical vicinity. So what? Why is there a fundamental difference between the ownership of land and the ownership of airwaves?

One thing I didn't realize until doing research for this article is that television broadcasters receive the rights to the public airwaves absolutely free.
I'd agree this is incorrect; private companies should be allowed to purchase the rights to blocks of frequencies, and then use or resell them as they see fit. The government shouldn't be involved.

public airwaves (4.33 / 3) (#17)
by dipierro on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 04:02:12 PM EST

As for the airwaves being "owned by the public", why is that? Sure, there are a limited amount of frequencies through which data can be transmitted. But there is also a limited amount of useable land on the earth and a limited amount of natural resources like coal or oil.

You can take that to mean personal ownership or collective ownership. Personal ownership, in that the airwaves above and through my property are owned by me, or collective ownership, in that the airwaves are owned by the public collectively. Either way, if these companies wish to use these airwaves, they need to compensate me, either directly or collectively.

Why is there a fundamental difference between the ownership of land and the ownership of airwaves?

This is exactly the point I'm making. There is a fundamental difference, because the government gives the airwaves away to these corporations. It's as though the government gave the farmers huge plots of land in return for them selling us fruits and vegetables.

I'd agree this is incorrect; private companies should be allowed to purchase the rights to blocks of frequencies, and then use or resell them as they see fit. The government shouldn't be involved.

How could this possibly happen without the government being involved? Are you saying that the government is only involved in enforcing the property rights? Even that won't work, because there's no way you're going to get every single person whose property your photons pass through to agree. So the only "solution" involving no government regulation at all is to leave the airwaves up to complete anarchy. That would cause a tragedy of the commons, not to mention the terrible implications it would have for privacy.



[ Parent ]
The uses of land don't change very fast. (3.00 / 3) (#18)
by Weezul on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 04:15:13 PM EST

Protocols can develope pretty quickly.  Specifically, your claim about diffrent broad casts not being able to use the same frequencies is patently false today.  There are very smart people who even claim that (at least locally) airwave bandwitdh is essentually unlimited with the right protocols, i.e. every device you buy which uses the airwaves will add to the bandwidth in your area.  I'm not shure how these schemes work with long distance communication accrost sparcly populated areas.. presumably you pay for companies which run long distance repeaters over landlines or satilights.

Regardless, my point is that we should, in the near future, simply up and reallocate the whole damn spectrum (execpt for some bits needed for radio astronomy and highly directional microwave transmissions) to new more network like protocols.  No one will own any of it, they will simply be required to use specific protocols.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]

Already forgotten, eh? (3.50 / 2) (#57)
by pla on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:24:49 AM EST

First off, television companies don't claim to provide a "free service", out of some sense of charity. They are trying to make money -- I don't think they would deny that, and attacking them for it is silly.

I see people have already forgotten the last batch of those nice spiffy "nostalgic-feeling" commercials TV stations run every few years, hyping "X years of free television, brought to you by commercials."

Yeah, technically honest. But the tone of those spots *certainly* doesn't scream "we make money by selling you to advertisers", it tries to make people feel all nice and cuddly inside from the overwhelming benevolence of our warmly flickering surrogate social lives.


[ Parent ]
Now I'm pissed off (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by jacob on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 12:20:27 PM EST

I saw this comment right around when it was posted and didn't have time to reply, but I figured there would be ample numbers of people here to set you straight. It seems from reading the replies, though, that even the author of the article to which your reply is attached doesn't understand the whys of broadcast media.

Here's the deal: way back in the early part of the last century, some folks worked out that you can use some pretty cool physics trickery to send signals across great distances using various kinds of waves. Now, these waves aren't a physical thing and they can't be owned: unlike land or other property, there's no way for one person to physically take over a certain frequency; it's like trying to claim ownership of particular waves in the ocean. It's nonsense. Furthermore, if you were to take a frequency and say it was yours, somebody else could just make waves with that same frequency and then neither of you could use the signal. And really, if somebody else were gaining financial advantage over you via their broadcasting, isn't that what you'd do? Don't you think maybe you'd just start broadcasting on all the frequencies you could in the hopes that either your signal would get through or nobody's would? It only takes one person with that notion to destroy the entire medium.

So, if the people wanted to have broadcast media at all, they needed to create regulatory boards and those boards needed to actually have the power to knock on somebody's door and confiscate their broadcasting equipment if need be. True, waves don't belong to anybody, but they'd be useful to nobody unless the government created an absolutely artificial notion that you can own  waves in certain media of certain frequencies. Thus, radio regulation was born.

This created a thorny problem: how do you decide who to allow to grant the right to operate various channels? The government doesn't have a legitimate right to just hand out frequencies however it pleases (though that's what it did initially) because the airwaves don't belong to it. However, it is stewarding the airwaves in the public interest, so it makes sense to say that the people who have the right to broadcast in a certain region are those who will bring that region the most benefit when taken together. That's a nice-sounding answer, but it turns out to be absolutely impossible to pin down what it means specifically, so the FCC has basically decided it means "no swearing, some news, and a station identification every hour on the hour." They also use it to line their pockets, a fact for which I think the whole board of the FCC ought to go to jail, but that's neither here nor there.

I tell you all this as a way of explaining why your argument makes no sense. It is fundamentally impossible to own all waves of a certain frequency, it doesn't even make sense. The government must be involved to give that nonsensical ownership a real meaning (i.e., we'll stop anybody but the "owner" of a frequency from broadcasting on it) and that government intervention is critical to radio's existence. And as for companies buying and selling frequencies to each other: this basically happens, actually, but you ought to be outraged by it. The only reason we agree to let only one person operate a certain frequency is that we think it's more in the public interest than if we just let the airwaves go to seed; if the people who operate those stations don't want to serve our interests but instead treat it as a way of lining their pockets, then fuck it, I'll just build a tower in my back yard right now.

IANARH.

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]

Pissed off at your own ignorance? (1.00 / 1) (#103)
by dipierro on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 08:45:47 PM EST

Here's the deal: way back in the early part of the last century, some folks worked out that you can use some pretty cool physics trickery to send signals across great distances using various kinds of waves.

The flashlight was invented in the 19th century, not the 20th.

Now, these waves aren't a physical thing and they can't be owned: unlike land or other property, there's no way for one person to physically take over a certain frequency

First of all, the waves are indeed a physical thing. Secondly, the "airwaves" refer to the medium, not the waves themselves. Thirdly, neither the medium nor the waves themselves are the same as the frequency.

True, waves don't belong to anybody, but they'd be useful to nobody unless the government created an absolutely artificial notion that you can own waves in certain media of certain frequencies.

Yes, the artificial concept of private property of both land and broadcasting frequencies is to avoid tragedy of the commons, as I explained in the answer I gave.

Jesus is my strong force!

You're joking, right?



[ Parent ]
Jesus is my strong force. (none / 0) (#107)
by jacob on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 12:37:00 AM EST

Yes, in fact, that is a joke. I do not in fact think that the obserevation that there must be a binding force that holds atomic nuclei together implies that Jesus died for my sins, which is one important argument posited by the comic to which I link. I had hoped my whimsical choice of phrasing would be sufficient to indicate my humorous intent, but apparently I was incorrect. Sorry about that. I'll try to make more obvious jokes in the future.

By the way: flashlights have nothing to do with the physics trickery to which I was referring. Waves are a physical phenomenon but not an object. I have no idea why you say that the word "airwaves" doesn't refer to waves in the air, but whatever, it's irrelevant. And I guess my analogy was flawed: I should have said "it's like trying to claim ownership of the idea of ocean waves with a particular height." It's what I meant but not what I said, so you're right. Good job quibbling with one line, dude. Very constructive of you.

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]

Gluons are my strong force. (none / 0) (#112)
by dipierro on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 10:20:42 AM EST

I do not in fact think that the obserevation that there must be a binding force that holds atomic nuclei together implies that Jesus died for my sins, which is one important argument posited by the comic to which I link.

Hmm, I didn't read it as saying that one implied the other. I read it as basically, the bible said it, so it must be true. But in any case, I more meant the part about refuting evolution and basic physical laws. Your link was a strawman argument against it, and it's an argument which some people actually fall for, so I was wondering whether you were one of them, or you were just making fun of them.

I had hoped my whimsical choice of phrasing would be sufficient to indicate my humorous intent, but apparently I was incorrect. Sorry about that. I'll try to make more obvious jokes in the future.

Heh, it's ok. The reason I thought you might be serious is that I've known people who actually believe that crap.

By the way: flashlights have nothing to do with the physics trickery to which I was referring. Waves are a physical phenomenon but not an object.

Flashlights are not the wave, the light coming from the flashlight is the wave. The frequency is 810-1620 THz.

I have no idea why you say that the word "airwaves" doesn't refer to waves in the air, but whatever, it's irrelevant.

Look at dictionary.com: "The medium used for the transmission of radio and television signals. Often used in the plural." The air inside my house is part of the airwaves, and that's why it's relevant, because that most certainly can be owned by me.

And I guess my analogy was flawed: I should have said "it's like trying to claim ownership of the idea of ocean waves with a particular height."

No, it's like trying to claim ownership of a portion of the ocean through which those ocean waves travel.

It's what I meant but not what I said, so you're right. Good job quibbling with one line, dude. Very constructive of you.

You don't seem to understand anything about E-M radiation. I suggest you let someone who knows what they're talking about talk about it.



[ Parent ]
we are arguing different things. (none / 0) (#115)
by jacob on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 12:07:05 PM EST

This is a completely silly debate and one I shall not continue, but I am arguing that it's not possible to own 91.7 megahertz while you're arguing about whether it's possible to own the medium through which a wave with a frequency of 91.7 megahertz travels.

--
"it's not rocket science" right right insofar as rocket science is boring

--Iced_Up

[ Parent ]
Apology accepted (none / 0) (#116)
by dipierro on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 12:11:42 PM EST

Try to understand what you're talking about before you attack others in the future.

[ Parent ]
Ownership (4.00 / 2) (#83)
by phliar on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 09:28:24 PM EST

As for the airwaves being "owned by the public", why is that? ... Why is there a fundamental difference between the ownership of land and the ownership of airwaves?
The fundamental difference is history.

It is very recently in our history that we realised that there was this limited resource out there. You want this resource to be owned by corporations, and bad! eeevil! gummints shouldn't be involved. Fine; who is the first owner?

Land is something that has been with us from the beginning. Our exclusionary notion of land "ownership" didn't need to be well-founded; when our society developed laws and codified the nature of ownership, the people who controlled the land (aka the strong, the bullies, or the kings -- depending on your personal beliefs) were simply blessed and if you wanted some land, you had to negotiate with the people who were now officialy the owners.

Unfortunately what has happened with spectrum is that the once-lofty ideals of "the common good" have been sacrificed to big business. Spectrum licenses were granted effectively on a first come, first served basis (which is as good as any) but now spectrum might as well be owned by the current licensees for all the oversight and rights "the people" have.

It is important to realise that "ownership" is not an intrinsic right; it is just the way our society developed.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

land (none / 0) (#102)
by dipierro on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 08:19:52 PM EST

Land is something that has been with us from the beginning.

Ever since we stole it from the native americans, anyway.



[ Parent ]
more land (none / 0) (#110)
by phliar on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 01:15:29 AM EST

Land is something that has been with us from the beginning.
Ever since we stole it from the native americans, anyway.
No comment... but I meant "us" as in humans, not necessarily European settlers/invaders of North America. It is true that some societies -- mostly nomadic ones -- do not have a notion of personal ownership of land. Societies starting from agrarian bases are the ones that seem to have developed it.

Personally I don't believe that the notion of ownership has any intrinsic goodness since societies seems to do just fine without it. The interesting part is: what happens when two societies meet? Just like an aggressive war-based society will tend to destroy a pacifist society, an ownership society will destroy a non-ownership one.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

TiVo won't kill "free" TV, but might kil (4.50 / 4) (#16)
by GGardner on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 03:50:54 PM EST

The rise of cable, which gave the viewer the choice of dozens of things to watch at any one time, created a ton of rather specialized shows.  Cable has hurt network TV, but not mortally.  With TiVo, and potentially tens of thousands of things one could watch at any one time (assuming it captured the subset of that you want), the specialization of television shows will accelerate, and the future of the major networks will be in doubt.

Let's say, for example, you want to put on (or watch) a show about water-cooled overclocked PCs.  The market for this show is small enough that it couldn't get on broadcast or cable today -- the audience is small enough that advertising couldn't support the cost of broadcasting this to millions of people who wouldn't watch it.

But with TiVo, you just need to buy a half hour cable slot at any time of day, on any channel -- with TiVo, the cost of buying "prime time" programming will be only minimally greater than "sleep time" programming.  Many, many times more people would watch this show "tape delayed", than at 2am, perhaps enough to make it economically viable.  With this "narrowcasting", certain advertisers would leap to sponsor it, for they are sure that they are talking to the audience they want to target.  Sounds like this will devolve into infomercials, but I doubt it -- I wonder how many TiVo owners watch infomercials today?  In any case there will still be a strong market for advertiser-supported shows, and some specifically targeted toward certain demographics.

Today's major networks, though, rely on shows popular across a wide range of audiences, and TiVO scares them, because it means that they won't be able to afford to create episodes of Friends that cost millions of dollars a show.  Is this good or bad?  I'll let others decide.

yea but... (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by nodsmasher on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 04:45:23 PM EST

when the computer geeks tape the show at 2 am the TiVo doesn't tape the ad's and no advertiser bothers to buy ad's so the show dies
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
-Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
Ads.. (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by Danse on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 05:02:28 PM EST

Ads will probably have to change for this to be useful. There will either be sponsor announcements, or screen banners, or some other such method that integrates the ads with the show.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
with a new generation of ads (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by nodsmasher on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 05:42:48 PM EST

comes a new generation of TiVo's that can block those banners

so all that is left is corporate sponsored writing Truman show style
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
-Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
And with that (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by acceleriter on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 06:12:57 PM EST

comes a new generation of theft rhetoric and strategic lawsuits against those offering them.

[ Parent ]
Theft (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by PresJPolk on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 07:17:55 AM EST

If that's so, then why hasn't AOL sued Junkbusters?

[ Parent ]
Junkbusters (3.00 / 1) (#77)
by acceleriter on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 07:18:53 PM EST

Probably because not that many people use it. The technical bar is higher than your average out-of-the-Walmart-box web surfer is ever going to vault. But a PVR, that's a mass-market device, made by a juicy target with money rather than some obscure niche business, too.

[ Parent ]
Narrow cast ad's might get watched. (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by Alan Crowe on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 03:44:19 PM EST

If the program is about CPU's, and the adverts are trying to sell CPU's, then the TIVO's will be set to record the ad's , because the viewers will be interested in where to get their next hot CPU

[ Parent ]
Oh come on. (3.33 / 3) (#19)
by llamasex on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 04:19:18 PM EST

TV will Evolve it won't die. Tivo won't kill it will us it change the way it operates. Ads as we know them now will change drastically maybe into Truman show-esque Ads, or maybe into take up the bottom half of portion of your screen ads. Trust me, all you have to do is look at the numbers you quoted on how much money was going into and coming out of the TV industry. Those things don't die and get shared with the public. At best/worst it will go out like radio in which one company will own almost every channel and be able to use its monopoly to make money around tivo.

Howard Dean punched me in the face
My Wishlist (4.63 / 11) (#23)
by br284 on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 04:52:58 PM EST

Here's the type of system that I want:

1. TV owner purchases a little black box that sits atop the TV and plugs into some sort of digital connection (digital cable, perhaps).

2. TV owner purchases a connection from the local monopoly that provides connections to the black boxes. Company is a monopoly because it owns the wires leading to the black boxes, and it is granted a monopoly in exchange for not being able to offer content or other premium services. This company would be regulated like a utility.

3. The TV owner is able to pull public channels off of the cable if the providers decide to make the stream free.

4. TV owners can subscribe to the channels that are wanted and no other. If the owner does not want E! or the Golf Network, he does not pay for that. Furthermore, the owner can choose to only subscribe to premium channels if he wants (for example, the TV owner may only want HBO and nothing else).

5. In exchange for subscription revenues, there would be no ads on the channel.

In short, I would like to take the idea of pay-per-view and expand it to a larger granularity, such as channels. There are a few channels that I wouldn't mind subscribing to via cable, but I don't want to pay for the trash to get the few good channels.

-Chris

Buying Channels or Shows? (none / 0) (#89)
by cam on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 06:53:06 AM EST

TV owners can subscribe to the channels that are wanted and no other.

This would be a step forward, we changed from cable to satellite for cost reasons, and we now have 200 something channels. We really only watch 10. I am happy to pay for less channels to get exactly what I want, such as a non blacked out MSG, but they wont sell me that, rather they want to sell me 150 channels?

I would prefer to just buy shows, and if possible directly from the shows creators. Such as the Simpsons, and in the case of the New York Rangers, I would prefer to buy their hockey shows from them, rather than a hockey package and I would pay more to ensure the commentary is by Sam and JD (or even buy from Sam and JD to hear their commentary). Same with the Olympics, I will pay the Olympic committee for the games, but would be paying Roy and HG for their commentary.

I would also like to buy Australian Cricket Tests and Pajama Matches. Bledisloe Cup is a must too. Cant do that on the 50 Sports channels we have :( I have told the different cable and satellite companies we have used what I am prepared to pay for as well.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

What I want to know... (3.33 / 6) (#25)
by skim123 on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 05:12:49 PM EST

So those of us who don't watch TV will get a refund check of some sorts, for allowing y'all to use those airwaves for free? If that's the deal, then, sure, I'm all for it.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


If I got to decide... (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by dipierro on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 05:24:56 PM EST

So those of us who don't watch TV will get a refund check of some sorts, for allowing y'all to use those airwaves for free?

Nope, you don't use the airwaves when you watch TV, you use them when you broadcast. The broadcasters have to pay the government for that priviledge, and in return you (and all of us) get lower tax rates.



[ Parent ]
Nothing changes (none / 0) (#90)
by Sloppy on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 11:39:47 AM EST

You're already putting up with not getting refunds when you buy products whose prices have been inflated by advertising expense. You paid for the ads but didn't watch the show.
"RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."
[ Parent ]
Forbes has considered a vaguely similar idea (4.00 / 6) (#35)
by leviramsey on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 08:28:02 PM EST

This article (free reg. may be required...) puts forth the idea that the networks could charge $0.32/hour for you to watch commercial-free TV. At that rate, it's likely to be even cheaper than TiVO's service charge.



Cheaper than free? (3.00 / 1) (#56)
by pla on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:15:18 AM EST

At that rate, it's likely to be even cheaper than TiVO's service charge.

*What* service charge? At least with the previous generation of units, if you just never plug the phone line into it, it works just fine, without paying any monthly fee.

And, I haven't actually "stolen" anything, because their monthly fee sells their "service", which consists of basically the equivalent of tvguide.com. I do not want that service, I only want a digital VCR.

When it finally dies, I'll probably build myself a Linux based PVR (since no doubt TiVO et al will have found a way to make quite certain that people have to pay regularly for the "privelage" of having one of their fancy VCRs). I figure what I have now will last a few years, anyway, by which time a decent Linux PVR management program might exist.


[ Parent ]
Sorry (3.00 / 1) (#66)
by leviramsey on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 12:29:11 PM EST

I was under the impression that you had to use the tvguide thing.



[ Parent ]
Don't feel sorry... (3.00 / 1) (#68)
by pla on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 01:50:51 PM EST

I was under the impression that you had to use the tvguide thing.

Exactly what they *want* you to believe.

I've also hear that in the newer models they make it *much* harder to get by without subscribing to their crap (I've also read about ways around that, but, wouldn't want to violate the DMCA, now would I? You'll have to do the Google search yourself <G> ).


[ Parent ]
Blah, blah, blah. (3.20 / 5) (#37)
by Icehouseman on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 10:06:50 PM EST

TV is fine the way it is. One day, I was watching TV and was looking at all the ads during a 30 minute show and realized that I wouldn't buy one thing that the ads advertised for; so in their case, it was a waste of their money. Meanwhile; I got free TV. Usually I change the channel during commericals anyways; for example if I'm watching say Star Trek on Sci-Fi and there's a baseball game on ESPN; I'll watch Star Trek then during the commerical I'll switch over to ESPN. In the end; I'm getting free TV.
----------------
Bush's $3 trillion state is allegedly a mark of "anti-government bias" on the right. -- Anthony Gregory
Aren't you paying for those channels? (4.00 / 2) (#58)
by ZahrGnosis on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:48:22 AM EST

I never really understood where all the money one pays for "basic cable" goes, but as far as I'm concerned, Sci-Fi and ESPN aren't "free" channels.  They certainly aren't the same as the broadcast channels we get from the point of view of airwaves, since they are exclusively (?) sent over Cable (or Satellite, or whatever, but not over what would otherwise be public access airwaves).

I'd be glad to pay a few extra bucks a month to see shows that were really 30 minutes long instead of like 23, and to not be interrupted during my TV-watching experience.  :-)  HBO is one of my favorite channels because of the no-commercial format.  Watching any of their original shows (Arliss, Sex and the City, OZ, The Wire, etc.) just feels more like entertainment than the oft-interrupted Network shows.

[ Parent ]

My roommate pays for it. (1.00 / 1) (#87)
by Icehouseman on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:32:44 PM EST

hehe.
----------------
Bush's $3 trillion state is allegedly a mark of "anti-government bias" on the right. -- Anthony Gregory
[ Parent ]
So where does the money to run TV come from? (4.33 / 3) (#61)
by p3d0 on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:54:27 AM EST

Do you think the money to run TV stations grows on trees? No, it's an advertising tax built into every product you buy.
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Gov't propaganda (4.00 / 6) (#41)
by wji on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 03:17:19 AM EST

That's absolute rubbish. For one thing, the current system is "Corporate TV" instead of "Government TV", whoop dee doo.

Now, the thing is, public broadcasters in the Western democracies are often MORE critical of the government than the private ones. See, once the independent, gov't funded broadcaster is set up in the first place, it's a bitch for the government to restrain it. Exercise editorial control once and the station can scream "government censorship!" and damage the government immensely. At least that's how it works in our parliamentary system, where representatives can and do scream insults at the chief executive in the House of Commons; the we-love-the-Great-Leaders system you guys seem to have might work different. But maybe not, PBS and NPR seem a tiny bit more dissident than the flag-draped Pentagon press releases you get on the other networks.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.

Please reserve judgement... (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by pla on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:09:32 AM EST

But maybe not, PBS and NPR seem a tiny bit more dissident than the flag-draped Pentagon press releases you get on the other networks.

*Please* don't base your opinion of how Americans view their government by what our crappy TV networks show.

Personally, when I want "real" news about something important going on in the US, I check out the BBC or CBC websites. They seem to have a *slight* anti-American bias (for which I can hardly blame them at the moment), but it seems a *WHOLE* lot more straightforward than what Ted Turner spoon-feeds us.


[ Parent ]
Anti-American? (3.00 / 1) (#78)
by wji on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 07:20:45 PM EST

I've read a hell of a lot of lefty propaganda that makes CBC look like the National Review, and only a tiny fraction of it is actually "anti-American". What exactly do you mean by "slight anti-American bias"?

This reminds me of a diary entry I saw around early October 2001. It was bitching about all the "anti-American" stories in the k5 queue, and it listed them. A story about the silliness of recognizing the patent on Cipro during the anthrax scare was "anti-american". That's utterly typical thinking -- the author was talking about SAVING AMERICAN LIVES, but since he criticized the government, he was being anti-American.

Hell, it goes back a long way -- I saw a 1950 Christian Anti-Communist Crusade pamphlet blasting the AP for being "communist" by quoting a study on malnourishment in American children.

The term "anti-COUNTRY" is complete bullshit, and only exists in heavily propagandized societies. Can you imagine "anti-Tchadianism" or "anti-New Zelandianism" being seriously discussed? "Anti-Americanism" gets about 60 times more play than it deserves from its actual level in reality.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

Dude, relax. (none / 0) (#108)
by vectro on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 12:49:29 AM EST

The guy wasn't bitching at you, he was suggesting that your news is less biased and more real than American news.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
I wasn't bitching at him, either. (none / 0) (#111)
by wji on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 03:54:35 AM EST

I was exploring the idea of "anti-American" and looking for some useful discussion.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
one angle missing (2.77 / 9) (#44)
by idea poet on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 05:58:39 AM EST

One issue that you didn't address, that I feel is terrible important is this: If television advertising disappears, what would happen to the advertising industry?

The advertising dollar - those cents that are built into the price of goods and services - are the livelihoods of lots of families. Advertising, if you like it or not, is part of the value chain.

Haven't we had this question before? (3.83 / 6) (#49)
by Rogerborg on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 09:23:04 AM EST

    If television advertising disappears, what would happen to the advertising industry?

They go into the buggy-whip industry?


"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

Why subsidize obsolescence? (4.75 / 4) (#54)
by pla on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:02:14 AM EST

To put it bluntly: So what?

Yeah, we all need to work to make a living (or so we learn from an early age). That does *NOT* mean that we all need to pay people to do a task not only no longer needed, but actually deceptive and disliked by most (yeah, *suuuuure* we all use the "self-serve" ad systems some websites have set up).

We discuss the RIAA/MPAA and their attempts to legislate our acceptance of a product that has outlived its usefulness (physical media distribution). We talk about the sheer offensiveness of the general corporate hegemony that dominates our culture and economy. We complain about the "evil" of bid tobacco in pushing poison on us for profit. We attack the WO(s)D as forcing outdated morality on us for the government's profit.

And yet...

We should try to keep people employed, who's very jobs involve subverting our personal belief system for the purpose of hawking shoddy consumer goods at us?

Sorry, but I just don't buy it, in more ways than one. Let obsolete products and systems die. We have a CAPITALISTIC economy. Either we can accept that, and let market pressures eliminate useless products, or we can change it, and regulate corporations into pretenting to care about the people they rape. But DON'T ask me to suffer the worst of both while blindly claiming to have the best of both.


WRT the idea that we "steal" TV programming by not watching commercials, I have only two comments.

First, the "product" cannot steal anything, only the potential customer. Do pet stores punish their stock for eating the "free" food without spending a fair amount of their time in front of the "for sale" signs?

And second, I pay just over USD$80 per month for TV and internet access. That comes out to almost a thousand dollars a year! If the media giants want to tell me I get biased news, crappy sitcoms, and a steadily increasing number of ads I need to filter out, all for free - they can send me a check at their convenience.


Personally, I would *LOVE* to see private TV become fee-based rather than advertising based. Perhaps the networks might finally have a motive to produce works of artistic merit or journalistic integrity, rather than whatever drivel they calculate will sell the most Pepsi during the next 30 second spot.


[ Parent ]
Obsolescence (4.00 / 4) (#59)
by p3d0 on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:51:14 AM EST

It's too bad, but when times change, some professions disappear. Should people keep buying typewriters just to keep typewriter makers in business?
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
What do they do? (3.50 / 2) (#63)
by dipierro on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 12:16:23 PM EST

One issue that you didn't address, that I feel is terrible important is this: If television advertising disappears, what would happen to the advertising industry?

The people who work for the advertising companies get real jobs, actually creating something useful, rather than brainwashing the public.



[ Parent ]
Useful? (2.00 / 1) (#79)
by spacejack on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:04:02 PM EST

What use are the shows themselves? At least ads sell products that keep the economy going. WTF does watching "Friends" or "Masterpiece Theatre" do for us anyways?

[ Parent ]
advertising (4.00 / 1) (#80)
by dipierro on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:06:29 PM EST

What use are the shows themselves? At least ads sell products that keep the economy going. WTF does watching "Friends" or "Masterpiece Theatre" do for us anyways?

If you want to get existential, then yes, nothing is "useful". But ads don't sell products, they just artficially jack up the price of less useful products.


In capitalism, man exploits man. In socialism, it's the other way around.
[ Parent ]
huh? (2.00 / 1) (#82)
by spacejack on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:36:43 PM EST

You can't sell a product without advertising of some kind.

[ Parent ]
Huh? (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by dipierro on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 09:54:22 PM EST

Are you counting the sign outside the store that says "Grocery Store" as an advertisement?

[ Parent ]
uh (none / 0) (#99)
by spacejack on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 07:36:52 PM EST

Yes. What do you call it?

[ Parent ]
What do I call it? (none / 0) (#101)
by dipierro on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 07:52:36 PM EST

A sign. Do you consider the sign on the road which says "Hospital" with an arrow to be an advertisement as well?

[ Parent ]
Yes... (none / 0) (#104)
by spacejack on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 08:50:10 PM EST

in the US, where there are private hospitals, it could be an ad. The only reason you don't think a sign is an ad is because other forms of advertising are often more effective and slicker. But still, most people, including yourself, will be attracted to one store over another because of the sign. In the absense of other forms of advertisement, you can be sure signs would become quite the spectacle. Think about some of the signs you see for tourist attractions on the side of the highway, where it is their primary form of advertisement.

[ Parent ]
advertising (1.00 / 1) (#105)
by dipierro on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 09:09:27 PM EST

But still, most people, including yourself, will be attracted to one store over another because of the sign.

Speak for yourself. I absolutely positively will not.

In any case, if I seek it out, and not vice-versa, I don't consider it advertising.



[ Parent ]
some comments (4.25 / 4) (#46)
by tps12 on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 07:13:57 AM EST

If free television is indeed being killed by TiVo, then there is no point in discussing its regulation. Since PBS is already not advertising-driven, it would survive even if local network affiliates failed.

That said, advertisers are not going to give up that easy. Remember when people realized that banner ads didn't work on the web? We started seeing pop-ups, pop-unders, Flash... When a sizeable number of viewers are cutting out commercials with TiVo, television advertising will adapt. News and sports channels, as well as some cable channels, already have a kind of "banner ad" across the bottom of the screen.

PBS (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by dipierro on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 12:13:37 PM EST

is most definately advertising-driven.

[ Parent ]
K5 is clearly anarchist... (2.20 / 5) (#50)
by Thinkit on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 09:59:06 AM EST

I looked at the poll and clicked unlicense everything, wondering how many would agree with me.  My, I think I have found my libertarian/anarchist haven (well between this and guns/drugs polls).

If you report us (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by jmzero on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 05:18:51 PM EST

Please leave me out.  I am willing to renounce my K5 user ID at the drop of a hat.  If you want I'll even rat on that pinko freak wji.

And remember, our new ant overlords will need someone who speaks their language to keep them motivated in the giant, underground sugar mines.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Two words (4.75 / 4) (#52)
by codemonkey_uk on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 10:06:54 AM EST

Product Placement.

Advertising slots are dead. Long live integrated adverts. People have "tuned out" advertising, and even the ad-makers know it. Take for instance, the film trailor "Lucky Star. There is no such film ... but you do see a lot of the new Mercedes SL.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell

Poll Answer: *LEASE*, not sell to all comers (4.66 / 3) (#60)
by mcherm on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:51:42 AM EST

I propose that we LEASE the airwaves, to for-profits and non-profits alike. Selling them, as we've done for TV spectrum and others, is a terrible waste... the value of that spectrum may change dramatically as technology changes, but it's already locked in.

The government has three roles to play:


Preventing Interference

Even most staunch libertarians would agree... organizing the spectrum so everyone doesn't interfere with everyone else and "jamming your competitors" doesn't become a tool of business is a public good. The government should slice up the airwaves into appropriate-sized chunks (both spectrum-wise and geographically) and control interference. Most everyone would agree that the FCC has done a good job of this... (but see this report as a counterexample) the controversy is over WHO to give/sell it to.

Note that this means I'm OPPOSED to the "leave it unlicensed" option, so I'll probably get some folks opposing me


Taxation

The right to use spectrum belongs to the public, and if it's going to be parceled out to corporations, then the public ought to be making some money off of it. I suggest that a system of leases (so the income is ongoing, and will increase as the perceived value of the airwaves increases), auctioned to the highest bidder, would bring in the most revenue over the long term. But an outright sale brings in the most revenue over the short term. The fact that the outright sale makes a long-term commitment to grant these broadcast rights forever (even if a change in policy might be desirable later), that it foregoes all opportunity to add additional restrictions or raise prices later, and that it brings in less money over the long term are all arguments that pale in comparison to the fact that the politician making the decision has to be re-elected NEXT YEAR.

The public good

There is also an argument that the public airwaves ought to be used for some public good. Preventing 7 words from being used on radio, and restricting certain programming to nights or cable TV are only the least of these proposals. Public television is one important such purpose. Another oft-suggested one is to provide free airtime for candidates for political office (the argument being that if you didn't have to pay TV advertising rates for the basic ability to get your message before our couch-potato voters, then money might be much less of a factor in elections than in our current system. You could even create wild new ideas like supplying wireless internet for inner city schools.

Without commenting on the merits of specific proposals, I will simply suggest that either some of the spectrum should be set aside for purposes like these, or a "public service credit" could be factored into the bids made. (EG: +20% to your bid if you agree to run political speeches from all candidates during election season; +150% for public television, but after adding in these bonuses, you have to bid for the spectrum like everyone else.





-- Michael Chermside
Re: Leases (4.00 / 2) (#75)
by wierdo on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 05:37:51 PM EST

I propose that we LEASE the airwaves, to for-profits and non-profits alike. Selling them, as we've done for TV spectrum and others, is a terrible waste... the value of that spectrum may change dramatically as technology changes, but it's already locked in.

All of the FCC auctions of which I am aware grant the licenses for a limited amount of time. In fact, with the PCS auction, the FCC required companies buying spectrum to build out within a certain timeframe or lose their license. Several companies did fail to build out in time, and their spectrum in those areas was reauctioned.

TV spectrum is much closer to a permanent grant, but still can, and is from time to time revoked. TV spectrum, however, is free. Last I heard, some broadcasters want to keep not only their DTV channel after conversion, but their original channel as well, all free of charge. This, in addition to already being allowed to charge for their streams, as long as they have one free SD stream. This, after having long-standing ownership restrictions and PSA requirements reduced. No wonder I've come to hate broadcasters so much. They do nothing but whine, and the FCC does nothing but appease them.

-Nathan



[ Parent ]
Your numbers (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by dachshund on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 12:47:23 PM EST

Network television advertising accounts for approximately $20 billion in revenues for the networks. This accounts for approximately 100 million households, so Kellner's estimate of $250/year per household is certainly reasonable.

Am I correct in assuming that these numbers represent only the major over-the-air networks (ABC/NBC/CBS/PBS/WB/UPN, etc.)? I don't know about you, but over-the-air stations make up less than half of my TV viewing. How much do those numbers expand when you factor in non-premium cable TV stations, like Scifi or CNN?

Yes, those stations collect a small fee from your cable bill, but not nearly enough to pay for their programming. And Tivo will affect them too. If advertising ceases to be viable as a means to support these channels, how much will the per-household cost go up if you choose to subscribe to cable?

Also, I don't know where you live, but a quick flip through the over-the-air VHF and UHF stations in my city shows lots of free space that's not being used by anyone (and your typical rural area will generally have dozens of open channels.) It strikes me that even if we did have a use for that spectrum (it's not so useful for a lot of digital services), we have a long ways to go before we need to crowd out the public TV broadcasts.

My numbers (3.00 / 2) (#74)
by dipierro on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 05:36:26 PM EST

Am I correct in assuming that these numbers represent only the major over-the-air networks (ABC/NBC/CBS/PBS/WB/UPN, etc.)?

Yes. "The Myers Group estimates broadcast network ad sales at $16.8 billion in the U.S. this year, compared with $10.1 billion for cable network and $4.3 for online advertising." The 100 million households number is households with television sets, and includes both cable and broadcast.

I don't know about you, but over-the-air stations make up less than half of my TV viewing.

I don't have cable. I like to think of it as a boycott. I'll still watch the shows, but at least they aren't getting any of my money directly.

If advertising ceases to be viable as a means to support these channels, how much will the per-household cost go up if you choose to subscribe to cable?

Hmm actually my $20 billion number was a 2005 estimate. But I'd say $200-500 a year is a reasonable estimate.

Also, I don't know where you live, but a quick flip through the over-the-air VHF and UHF stations in my city shows lots of free space that's not being used by anyone (and your typical rural area will generally have dozens of open channels.)

Much of the UHF spectrum is filled with HDTV broadcasts, which won't show up in your flip through the channels.

It strikes me that even if we did have a use for that spectrum (it's not so useful for a lot of digital services), we have a long ways to go before we need to crowd out the public TV broadcasts.

HDTV is a digital service. The VHF and UHF spectra are useful for one-way broadcast services. The problem is that they are currently allocated in huge chunks on a 24/7 basis to large distributors. If you converted at least half the spectrum into IP distribution, and allowed the distributors to overlay their own higher layer protocols on top of that, and allowed distributors to buy very small chunks (say 100 gigs over a one hour time period), it would be much more efficient. By letting in the little guy you would open up tremendous new opportunities. Slashdot could broadcast their website wirelessly once an hour. RedHat could could broadcast Linux ISOs daily at 3 AM.



[ Parent ]
Opportunity cost (none / 0) (#91)
by dachshund on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 11:47:46 AM EST

I live in the NY area, and I know that there have been various services transmitting IP using low-power TV broadcasting. None of them have made it into commercial service, though, due to a couple of factors:

1. The over-the-air TV spectra are extremely vulnerable to echo and signal reflections.

2. It's not terribly viable as a consumer service, because it still requires a backchannel.

I'm not saying that the technology won't get better. I'm just pointing out that few companies seem to be aggressively pursuing this sort of technology as a profitable service right at the moment, even when they can get access to the spectrum.

I agree that it would be wonderful if we could use that service for something better; however, I'm not convinced that grabbing the entire block of spectrum and reallocating it is necessary. We should start by handing out the unused portions of the TV spectrum and seeing if service providers can do anything with them before we assume that there's an immediate opportunity cost to be gained by kicking traditional broadcasters of the air.

[ Parent ]

Kellner's the one who made the bluff (none / 0) (#92)
by dipierro on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 12:16:16 PM EST

I agree that it would be wonderful if we could use that service for something better; however, I'm not convinced that grabbing the entire block of spectrum and reallocating it is necessary.

I'm not really advocating grabbing the block either. What I'm advocating is calling Kellner's bluff. You want to stop giving us free TV? Go ahead. We'll take our spectrum and use it for something better.

I live in the NY area, and I know that there have been various services transmitting IP using low-power TV broadcasting. None of them have made it into commercial service, though, due to a couple of factors

Let me add one factor. 3) It's low power. This is going to be far more cost effective over a say 30 mile radius or whatever the current maximum radius is for VHF/UHF.

The over-the-air TV spectra are extremely vulnerable to echo and signal reflections.

I don't buy it. Like I said, HDTV is digital. Add some forward-error correction (in the next layers) and you can do the same thing with IP. Obviously the next layer would be have to be something like UDP, not TCP. Now it's not going to work well for interactive services, such as web-browsing, but it can work very well for one-way services (broadcasting the entire slashdot database, broadcasting the latest RedHat ISO, etc.). The payments would be made by the broadcaster, not the receiver. This also answers your point 2, largely.

In any case, I certainly agree that the market should decide. I'm just saying that the underlying protocol of IP makes much more sense, because it allows the spectrum to be shared. If NBC still wants to broadcast the superbowl, they can encapsulate it into a UDP stream and buy airtime from one of the non-profits. This way the airwaves aren't tied up all day and night, and the 3AM timeslot can be used for something more efficient. Right now the monopoly on the 3AM timeslot is given to the networks. It's already possible, and indeed being done, that digital data is being simulcasted with the television program. But you have to pay NBC or CBS or whoever in order to do it.

Obviously this would have to be eased into over time.



[ Parent ]
Some thoughts and experience (none / 0) (#93)
by dachshund on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 02:17:17 PM EST

Let me add one factor. 3) It's low power. This is going to be far more cost effective over a say 30 mile radius or whatever the current maximum radius is for VHF/UHF.

There are obvious problems with deploying UHF/VHF IP distribution over such wide scales, at least in fairly urban areas. The primary issue is capacity.

I worked on a project that was attempting to pipe video-on-demand streams over a cable network. The primary issue we were concerned about was the capacity available on the local loop (the place where the signal comes off the fiber and becomes, in essence, just like a broadcast connection shared by a few hundred homes.) Our idea was to get rid of the existing analog channels and rework the entire block of spectrum for digital transmission (using IP, as a matter of fact.) We would then use that capacity to pipe data and hundreds of video streams (MPEG2 at 3-5 Mbps). Some of those streams would be multicasts of live TV, while others would be unicast video-on-demand streams (note that this isn't a new idea, lots of people are trying to do it.)

Our calculations showed that (in theory) it was a great solution to the problem, as long as the local loop encompassed no more that a few hundred homes. For a neighborhood that size, we would have been able to provide roughly two simultaneous unique streams per household. Taking advantage of the facts that a) most viewers aren't watching TV constantly, and b) any number of people can "share" a single live stream, we might have been able to "stretch" the number of households on a loop as high as 2000 or so. Max.

This was a "good" result for us, because with a cable system you can (theoretically) have any number of independent local loops. For instance, the 500 houses in my neighborhood share a loop, and the 500 houses in the neighborhood down the road share a different one. Provided you have enough fiber connecting the neighborhoods to the cable company's head-end, you could theoretically deliver an entirely different 1Ghz block of channels to each local loop.

With wide-area broadcast TV, on the other hand, you could never support a bandwidth-hungry service like this. Even if you kicked all of the existing broadcast TV channels off the air and gobbled up all of the available channels, the number of households encompassed by a 30-mile transmission would be enormous (in the tens or hundreds of thousands at least.) There simply wouldn't be enough bandwidth to go around.

That may not seem like a big deal, then. Forget video-on-demand. Perhaps the UHF/VHF spectrum could simply be used for lower-bandwidth data services, even a handful of not-on-demand TV broadcasts. But my point is not simply about video-on-demand-- I'm trying to illustrate the fundamental capacity limits that any wide-area IP-over-broadcast enterprise will encounter. Against those costs, an IP-over-broadcast provider will face intense competition from landline providers who have no fundamental bandwidth limitations, and killer apps like VOD to run over it. Unless you can offer your service for such a ridiculously low price that it's almost free, you'll probably be sidelined into offering service only to those people who can't get cable or DSL connections (which is a lousy market, and an ever-decreasing one.)

Applications of low-power TV might actually make the system more useful, by making it more like a cellular network and allowing you to use your spectrum more efficiently.

[ Parent ]

This is not about unicast... (none / 0) (#95)
by dipierro on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 05:14:10 PM EST

You seem to be completely missing my point. I'm not talking about having lots of individual unicast streams. I'm talking about broadcast streams. When I said that it could be used for pay-per-view, I didn't mean video-on-demand, I meant a system similar to my cable company's pay-per-view, where an encrypted stream is broadcasted to everyone simultaneously, and you pay to get the decryption key, essentially.

News websites could push their entire website out on an hourly basis. Movie companies could push out new trailers overnight. Stock quotes could be pushed on a continuing basis. Hundreds of different audio streams could be multicasted. All of this would be available on your mobile laptop. No need to connect to a land-based system.

The payments would be made by the broadcaster, not by the receiver. So, sure, if you want to pay to broadcast your url requests to the whole world just so you can view them yourself, you could do that, but I would think that supply and demand would cause that to be rather expensive.

Essentially we'd start out with essentially the same system we have now. The network television broadcasters would encapsulate their broadcast programs into IP. But now they would be competing for that bandwidth they're using with others, including audio broadcasters and data broadcasters.



[ Parent ]
Unfortunately... (none / 0) (#96)
by dachshund on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 06:20:29 PM EST

VOD is just an example of one of the bandwidth-intensive services that cable and DSL providers are gearing up to provide over then next decade. They're going to be able to offer the enormous capacity for these services, and they're going to offer it relatively cheaply. This more or less blows over-the-air IP out of the water except for the specialized services you describe.

At the same time, cellular providers will begin rolling out 3G or 802.11-style networks, providing increasing amounts of two-way bandwidth to the mobile user (which is much more useful than some sort of Broadcast File System.) The service you envision simply won't come to be, because it's would require an enormous investment in a business threatened on all sides by superior and growing technologies.

I apologize if I took the long way around to make this point, but that's what I'm trying to get at. Broadcast IP may make some inroads with customers who don't have access to cable/DSL/mobile networks, but that's a crappy business to be in (think how well the satellite phone industry does now that cellphones are ubiquitous and cheap.)

[ Parent ]

We're coming from different positions... (none / 0) (#97)
by dipierro on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 06:46:42 PM EST

VOD is just an example of one of the bandwidth-intensive services that cable and DSL providers are gearing up to provide over then next decade.

I don't think video-on-demand as you envision it will happen in the next decade. It simply requires too much bandwidth. It certainly won't happen over cable television networks. As you've seen, the bandwidth simply isn't there.

TiVo is a type of video-on-demand. I find it much more likely that we'll see that before we see unicast television streams on a widespread basis.

Of course a revolution in data transfer mechanisms (which would probably violate shannon's law) would change all this, but it's just as likely that this will be a wireless technology as a wired one.

This more or less blows over-the-air IP out of the water except for the specialized services you describe.

It seems to me that there are a lot of applications which multicast to large numbers of people. These applications naturally lend themselves to distribution over-the-air and through the cable television networks.

At the same time, cellular providers will begin rolling out 3G or 802.11-style networks, providing increasing amounts of two-way bandwidth to the mobile user (which is much more useful than some sort of Broadcast File System.)

And this can provide a great upstream, but the fact of the matter is that these systems will always be more bandwidth limited than broadcast systems. They are also extremely more costly to build.

The service you envision simply won't come to be, because it's would require an enormous investment in a business threatened on all sides by superior and growing technologies.

The costs are actually very low comparatively. I could run a pirate radio broadcasting station over the VHF and UHF bands with a decent radius for a few thousand dollars of investment. Give me access to an antenna on the top of a large building and I could run a service with an even greater radius. Compare this to the number of independent cell towers I would need to run for 3G, or to the insane number of 802.11 stations I would need to run, and there's no competition in rollout costs. The only thing standing in my way is the federal government.



[ Parent ]
I'm not so sure (none / 0) (#106)
by dachshund on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 11:48:40 PM EST

And [3G/802.11] can provide a great upstream, but the fact of the matter is that these systems will always be more bandwidth limited than broadcast systems. They are also extremely more costly to build.

3G-type systems will always be more bandwidth-limited than broadcast-only systems. But they take advantage of their cellular configuration, to use their bandwidth a little bit more efficiently. If a broadcast system covers an entire city, it'll have to use all of that bandwidth to cater to the needs of a much larger number of people, whereas a cellular network only needs to cater to the people in a single cell.

As to the cost, well, it's pretty much inevitable that 3G or something like it is going to get built. You're right that broadcast TV systems would be a whole lot cheaper to build for those purposes-- however, it's very unlikely that this is going to be an either/or situation. If a broadcast system is built, it will probably exist alongside the two-way cellular networks, and it will have to offer significant unique capabilities that can't be acheived through the cellular networks, in order to justify its existence.

There is another alternative to consider, though. The UHF/VHF frequencies might be attractive to the 3G providers, as a way to augment their downlink capacity. A bunch of low-power TV stations patched into a cellular-type grid could provide the extra bandwidth that makes 3G networks capable of delivering broadcast media.

I don't think video-on-demand as you envision it will happen in the next decade. It simply requires too much bandwidth. It certainly won't happen over cable television networks. As you've seen, the bandwidth simply isn't there.

Actually, our conclusion was that the bandwidth is there, if you make some major changes in the way cable TV is currently set up (basically, get rid of the analog channels.) The real challenges generally have nothing much to do with the local loop-- they're often more issues of pulling fiber and routing MPEG. Some cable companies are even rolling out public trials, and you can buy commercial VOD hardware and MPEG routing equipment designed for exactly this purpose. I think you can reasonably expect to see VOD in your city within 10-15 years, depending (primarily) on competition and the financial health of the cable industry.

The costs are actually very low comparatively. I could run a pirate radio broadcasting station over the VHF and UHF bands with a decent radius for a few thousand dollars of investment. Give me access to an antenna on the top of a large building and I could run a service with an even greater radius. Compare this to the number of independent cell towers I would need to run for 3G, or to the insane number of 802.11 stations I would need to run, and there's no competition in rollout costs. The only thing standing in my way is the federal government.

There are a lot of things standing in your way. Hardware costs, which will be significant for your customers. Technical fine-tuning. A search for service providers who will want to pay for this service. It could work, though I haven't seen too many companies chomping at the bit to move into this business.

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind at all if I were wrong, and there was a useful service here.

[ Parent ]

Tangent on Network News (4.66 / 3) (#69)
by Kyle on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 02:18:44 PM EST

I'd like to see advertising eliminated from the nightly news. As I understand it, right now the FCC requires networks to have news programs on at certain times of the day. I think they should further require that these news programs not have any advertising during them.

The fact that there are ads during the news means that the TV stations put up news stories that will get the most viewers. Every night it's a seemingly endless array of scare stories designed to rope in as many commercial-watching consumers as possible.

Will reading this k5 story KILL YOUR CHILDREN?!? (3.00 / 3) (#71)
by prator on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 03:50:59 PM EST

Tune in at 11 to find out.

[ Parent ]
Required News, etc. (4.66 / 3) (#73)
by wierdo on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 05:30:52 PM EST

A broadcast television licensee is not required to broadcast news at any time, AFAICT. The local NBC affiliate here dumped their nightly news over ten years ago. After a while, they started doing a five minute weather spot at 10PM. Recently, they started producing news again. The FCC does require a certain amount of PSAs, and station IDs once or twice an hour. There used to be far more restrictions, more PSA's, requirements for locally originated programming, and so on.

Unfortunately, the affiliates whined so much that they weren't making any money (a load of crap if I ever heard it), that the FCC relaxed these restrictions years ago, at the same time they relaxed the ownership cap, which led us to Hearst-Argyle and a few others owning most of the network affiliates across the country, leading us to the situation we have today, of cookie cutter news, almost no local programming, and generally less and less public service. Now it's all about profit.

BTW, TiVo won't kill advertising. I have TiVo, and most of the time I forget to fast forward through the ads. Even when I do, I catch a glimpse of them, and even watch them on purpose, when one interests me. TiVo itself does not remove ads. People hitting fast forward does. TiVo doesn't even have a 'commercial skip' function like Replay does.

The real problem is advertising overload. Many channels, like Comedy Central, squeeze every extra advertising second they can spare, usually eliminating the fadeout, and often time compressing the show by running it a bit faster than the original. Not enough to make it sound funny, but fast enough to irritate me. If stations would stop doing this, perhaps people wouldn't be so irritated by them.

Personally, what I think is insane is that we are allowing broadcasters to get away with broadcasting only one free SD program stream, while letting them use the rest of their free-of-charge public bandwidth for pay services. If we had auctioned the spectrum to them, in a similar manner as the PCS auctions, I wouldn't mind so much. While I don't feel that we should require broadcasters use HD resolutions, I do feel that we should require that all streams be free of charge. Too bad the FCC is, and has been in the broadcaster's pockets for far too long.

Just once, I'd like to see the government do something in the interest of the people wrt technology.

-Nathan



[ Parent ]
What will really happen (4.00 / 3) (#76)
by Skwirl on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 06:10:45 PM EST

Of course, we all know that what will really happen is that the corporate media oligopoly will maintain control of the airwaves and they will just replace commercials with product placement of Truman Show proportions.

--
"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
Unlicensed (3.33 / 3) (#81)
by abo on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:32:48 PM EST

Keep it unlicensed, and just let the gov. decide on some limits to what kind om radio waves/interference your equipment may produce. That way we can all use the radio spectrum the way we use the Internet, that is, to do whatever we want and can imagine. Who cares about TV anyway?
-- Köp BRUX!
Like 900 Mhz and 2.6 Ghz? (3.00 / 1) (#86)
by dipierro on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 10:01:22 PM EST

I don't know about you, but I get a lot more useful services through VHF and UHF than through 802.11.

[ Parent ]
TiVo is a niche market (2.33 / 3) (#84)
by spacejack on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 09:52:34 PM EST

Maybe the broadcasters will just stop making shows like Star Trek, The X Files and The Lone Gunmen.

Actually (none / 0) (#98)
by broken77 on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 07:23:55 PM EST

I know several non-geeks who have TiVos. Although I gather from the ratings on your comment that other people already know that you're incorrect in your assessment (that only geeks own them).

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

First, (1.00 / 1) (#100)
by spacejack on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 07:48:48 PM EST

don't "gather" anything from comment ratings in a stick-it-to-the-man article. Second, I remain unconvinced that anyone who watches so much TV that they feel the need to buy a device to program out commercials is not a geek.

[ Parent ]
TiVo Use Might End Advertising, Free Up Our Airwaves | 116 comments (100 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
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