When You Merge The Message With The Medium, You Make A Messium

from Wired

THE NIXON ADMINISTRATION saw it coming. In a stunning January 1974 report, the Nixon White House Cable Committee foretold that the new telecom platform known as cable would, eventually, be a monopoly service wherever it was offered. The committee, whose membership included Mitt Romney’s dad, George, and which was staffed by a young Antonin Scalia, called for a “separation policy.” Its chief recommendation: Control of the cable medium should be separated from control of the messages on it. A federal mandate along these lines was urgently needed, the committee said: “If the achievement of a new relationship between government and the private cable medium is not anticipated but left to chance, the free flow of diverse information and ideas that is protected by the Constitution could be endangered.”

Nixon’s plan fell victim to the lobbying efforts of the cable industry—powerful then, much more powerful now—on Capitol Hill. Today, the Cable Committee’s predictions have come true: Both the cable and wireless industries, the transport networks on which everyone else rely, are fully mature, vertically integrated, and unruffled by competition. And they’re planning to erect separate kingdoms.

Here’s how these plans are playing out this month: AT&T wants to go “direct to consumer,” as a source of both original, exclusive shows and real-time-only exclusive content like sports and news. To get as much revenue as possible from perfectly targeted ads, they’d like to avoid middlemen and directly control data about everything you’re doing and watching. As a step along this empire-enhancement path, AT&T is fighting the Department of Justice: AT&T wants to acquire Time Warner so as to control HBO, CNN, Warner Bros., and other key sources of original content, and the DOJ has sued to block the deal. AT&T wants sympathy for its “market disadvantage against vertically integrated video content suppliers like Amazon, Netflix, and Comcast/NBCU.”

More here.

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One Response to When You Merge The Message With The Medium, You Make A Messium

  1. Chris Goldfarb April 13, 2018 at 7:11 pm #

    Cable companies have been strengthening their hold over the average consumer for decades, as of 2013, 67 percent of households have 2 or less options when it comes to choosing a network provider (https://qz.com/186881/nearly-one-in-three-americans-have-no-choice-when-it-comes-to-their-internet/). Those with 2 options often find that instead of those providers competing with each other to lower prices they unofficially agree to keep their prices high. This is an unavoidable reality for millions of American and is certainly behavior warranting a close watch of these companies to avoid further oligopolization/monopolization. However a close watch without the intent of action is pretty pointless. Just like standing outside watching as someone robs your house, the only purpose of watching cable providers in this scenario is to make it look like you’re doing something so you don’t come under too much scrutiny. The fact is cable and network providers have simply too much control over the market as it is but they could always have more.
    The Department of Justice’s suit against the AT&T-Time Warner merger is an ideal example of the ultimate goal of network providers, that being, they want to own all of it. As this article suggests the more control cable providers have the more effectively they can cement their position as bane of the consumer. By owning both the content and the hardware one way or another you are going to pay these companies, even if you pirate the content you’re still paying for that connection you’re pirating over. That’s not an endorsement of pirating but just a realistic perspective of common activity. I would say I don’t understand how we’ve sat by and let it get this bad in the first place but it’s very clear those with money will gladly donate to the cause of making more money, which has more likely than not stagnated the urge for politicians to make meaningful reforms.
    Despite the efforts of these corporations all good things must come to an end and it seems the end is nigh. Even with a pro-business attitude of the current administration and leadership of the FCC progress cannot be stopped. The article suggests one solution being the creation of Municipal Networks to help consumers avoid the abuse of large power hungry companies like AT&T. While that may be a viable solution it still relies on the action of government and one of the only certainties in this world is the capacity for government to achieve nothing over long timespans. A far more probable outcome is as the article points out is the total subversion of the whole medium. Whether it’s Elon’s Musk plan to launch thousands of satellites into orbit or some other yet unknown technology if you abuse people long enough odds are someone smart enough will find a way to ruin you (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/17/elon-musk-satellites-internet-spacex).

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