Saturday, January 07, 2006

Why Are Some Paying Cable For "Public Service"?

Josh Marshall has started an important discussion over at TPM Cafe asking for ideas for reforming our current corrupt US Congress. Commenters are bandying about a slew of great ideas in that discussion.

I want to underscore one suggestion that has to do with media reform and that has implications for local media: C-SPAN's coverage of House and Senate proceedings should be free and accessible for everyone. I would argue the same thing about coverage of Metro Nashville proceedings via Metro 3. It makes no sense that the only Americans who can watch televised proceedings that affect them are those who pay private cable companies a fee to do so.

Most of the problem is that the cable television industry is the exclusive "public service" provider:
C-SPAN is a private, non-profit company, created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a public service. Our mission is to provide public access to the political process. C-SPAN receives no government funding; operations are funded by fees paid by cable and satellite affiliates who carry C-SPAN programming.
Not only is granting access to proceedings only to those who pay unfair, but granting the cable industry exclusive rights to broadcast those proceedings puts it in a privileged lobbying position with our elected officials and relative to legislation that affects the industry.

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