April 6, 2013

Being able to choose your channels...

I have long believed that unbundling of cable and satellite channels would be a good thing.

The model for years has been for subscribers to pay a flat fee for a cable lineup that originally might have included a couple of dozen channels or so. As technology advanced, the cable industry was able to expand the number of channel offerings with a modest increase in cost.

When my wife and I were parents of young children, we would gladly have paid an additional fee to have the cable system filter out the burgeoning number of channels that contained content promoting violence, sex, and morbidity. While each of us has slightly different standards with regard to what's objectionable, there were ways that concerned parents and cable companies might have compromised.

Campbell Brown in action:
(see video below)
"Unworkable" was the basic response from the cable systems to proposals to unbundle channels, suggesting that the technology simply wasn't available to create a viable business model. That was back in the 1970's and '80's. Fast forward to 2013. Not only is the technology available to allow subscribers to pick and choose individual channels and pay only for those channels -- the need for doing so was never greater. It's often called "cherry picking."  The social cost of not offering subscribers this choice is potentially devastating. It's already left a mark on our society.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the current debate over gun control. Alas, the culpability of the media and entertainment businesses has been marginalized in the the national debate. Stepping up to focus on the issue is former NBC and CNN correspondent Campbell Brown. She was interviewed on MSNBC earlier this month (April 2013); while she didn't push hard on the "unbundling" of cable channels as a way to help parents -- and society -- she did have some cogent observations about the entertainment industry and some strategies that might work for reigning in an industry that displays little concern over the consequences of its product -- except the box office receipts.

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