U.S. NETS TO MAKE VIEWERS SIGN UP (PAY?) TO GET 'FREE' MOBILE DTV
* The corporate greedsters who run the nation’s TV networks want to require you to “show your papers” – and, most likely, your credit card number -- before you can receive local TV channels on the go. It is also likely they’ll want you to pay for what’s being benignly described as “conditional access” to wireless mobile digital TV simulcasts of existing local channels.
* "I WANT MY FREE TV! – and make it TO GO."
GET POLITICAL w/ VIC LIVINGSTON
The major U.S. television networks have endorsed a roll-out of "mobile DTV" service -- local TV signals receivable by wireless mobile devices -- that would require the viewers to sign up for a private service that promises to keeps existing broadcast channels free, but only if viewers register and presumably pay a sign-up fee.
The outline of what the industry is calling "conditional access" to supposedly free over-the-air TV service was revealed this week at the annual meeting and convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, as reported by the industry web site TVNewscheck.com.
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE. America's TV broadcasters are granted licenses to transmit TV signals over PUBLIC, federally regulated airwaves. The broadcast spectrum always has belonged to the people, not to the broadcasters who are granted the privilege of using those public airwaves -- in the case of commercial broadcasters, to make a profit.
Even if the service provider succumbs to public pressure and waives an authorization fee for "conditional access" -- which industry observers consider to be highly unlikely -- there is the issue of privacy. Universal access to anyone and everyone with a receiver has been a bedrock principle of American broadcasting, and American democracy, from the early days of radio back in the mid-1920's.
Now U.S. broadcasters, who salivate over the prospect of offering pay channels as an "add-on" to their existing broadcast TV service, want to radically change the rules, turning a publicly owned resource -- the broadcast spectrum -- into a privileged commodity available only to persons who buy into a private service and give up their personal identification, including, mostly likely, a credit card number or other means of payment such as a checking account number.
Why should reception of mobile DTV signals -- simulcasts of the exact same programming available over "non-mobile" standard ATSC TV antenna service -- be any different than "plain old television" when it comes to accessing the signal? No viewer ever has been required to provide name, rank, serial number and credit card information to access the public broadcast airwaves. Just because a TV signal is robust enough to be received while walking at a quick pace, or driving in a car, bus or other means of ground or near-ground transport is no justification for a mandatory "show me your papers" authorization scheme, and is certainly no rationale to require viewers to pay a sign-up fee, even a one-time charge.
“Semi-mobile” digital TV sets, some as small as a smartphone, have been on the market for a couple of years now. The signal generally breaks up unless the receiver is kept stationary. Some true mobile TV hand-held sets are still available, but not in any stores this writer has visited lately. Since the industry began scheming for a way to turn free TV into pay TV, those sets, marketed under brand names such as RCA and Auvio, have disappeared quietly from the shelves.
As one electronics chain store clerk confessed: “We want you to pay for mobile service to watch TV.”
You won't likely be hearing about this issue in the mainstream media; the reporters who cover the TV industry are largely beholden to it if they want to keep their jobs. How do I know? You are reading the work of a former editor of major television industry trade journals. And my reporting for an industry audience wasn’t nearly as aggressive (or in the public interest) back then as it is now as an independent journalist (whose current work is pro bono, not necessarily by choice).
So it's up to consumers, and consumer advocates, to raise a hue and cry over this industry proposal and kill it before it gets traction. And don't count on Congress or the Federal Communications Commission,which generally sides with the pay TV sector on such issues, to come to the support of the lowly couch potato; the current Congress appears to be bought and sold on issues of much greater import than this one, such as the vote in favor of allowing the U.S. military to indefinitely detain any citizen it suspects of having a "material connection" (whatever that is) to "terrorism," or having committed what the homeland-military-intel complex considers to be a "belligerent act."
TV viewers, get off your Lazy Boys and raise a ruckus – demand that your elected representatives protect their free and unfettered access to the public broadcast TV airwaves, even for signals that can be received while on the go. And I suggest this rallying cry, a variation on a now-famous cable TV network’s campaign to gain carriage over the nation’s cable systems:
“I WANT MY FREE TV! – AND MAKE IT TO GO.”