Hey Time-Warner, I want my C-SPAN
By Thomas M. Sipos
Shame on Time-Warner Cable. Upon buying Adelphia Cable in Santa Monica, Calif. early this year, it dropped C-SPAN 2 from basic tier channels and replaced it with ... a blank screen.
Sure, Time-Warner is a private company. And though cable systems have long lobbied government for the power to violate others' property rights (such as by forcing landlords and property owners to grant easements inside their buildings and across their lands), I suppose Time-Warner has a right to drop C-SPAN 2 from basic tier. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
Why should you care? Because most "news" outlets are partisan and dummied-down. Consider Neocon Radio, where blowhards confuse supporting the troops with supporting the war, supporting America, and supporting President Bush (four distinct issues, sometimes overlapping, sometimes not). Nor are complexities clarified on Air America Radio, whose hosts simultaneously bash Bush for fighting an "immoral and illegal war" and for not fighting it effectively; for busting the budget and for spending cuts.
Amid this idiocracy, C-SPAN shines as a stark example of unbiased, intelligent, in-depth political coverage. (Not that I dispute Time-Warner's right to stifle unbiased, intelligent, in-depth political coverage.)
C-SPAN stands for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network. There are three of them: C-SPAN 1, C-SPAN 2, and C-SPAN 3. If you're not watching, you should be. You should hope your neighbors are watching, too. To pull off their dirty deeds, politicians, lobbyists, and pundits require an uninformed electorate. C-SPAN keeps you informed. Sure, Washington insiders lie on C-SPAN, just as they lie on other networks. But at least C-SPAN provides balanced coverage. All candidates -- even from minor parties -- are given time to voice their message.
Contrast that with Fox "We Report, You Decide" News, which failed to report Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's victory over both Thompsons (Fred and Tommy) and Giuliani in an Iowa straw poll last August (see: LewRockwell.com). Maybe Fox News feared that if it reported Paul's victory, you might decide "wrongly."
Unlike Fox News, C-SPAN does report, letting you decide. (Not that I deny Time-Warner's right to favor self-censorship over unbiased reporting.)
In addition to covering the House and Senate, C-SPAN produces intelligent and respectful political talk shows. Their hosts don't argue with callers, or insult them, or twist their words. Their hosts listen with deadpan faces, letting you, the caller, have your full say -- uninterrupted. C-SPAN hosts never interject their own opinions. Even when a caller asks, "What do you think about X?" the host only replies, "What do you think about X, caller?"
You don't get that respect on most cable talk shows, where discussions quickly degenerate into heated, vapid, sound bite battles. (Not that I challenge Time-Warner's right to foster idiocy and disrespect.)
Like most companies, Time-Warner trumpets its commitment to public service. That should include public access TV (an early form of YouTube) and C-SPAN, as those were among the services the cable systems promised long ago, when they first sought the monopoly privilege to wire neighborhoods. (Not that I contest Time-Warner's right to renounce public service.)
Ironically, Time-Warner in Santa Monica dropped C-SPAN 2 from basic tier just as it (and other cable monopolies) beat back an attempt by broadcasters to push "multicast, must carry" through the Federal Communications Commission. This proposed regulation would have forced cable systems to give additional free space to local broadcasters, leaving less space for the three C-SPAN channels.
According to a February 2, 2007 C-SPAN statement, "Unlike broadcast stations, the C-SPAN networks have no government mandated guarantee of the right to be distributed by cable operators." A September 5, 2007 statement indicates that the danger of "multitask, must carry" has passed for now, but remains a potential future threat. (For details and updates, see MustCarry.org.)
So it seems Time-Warner doesn't have to surrender additional channel space to broadcasters. It's free to leave channel 68 (C-SPAN 2's former home) a pretty, blank, blue screen. But Time-Warner must still contend with consumer opinion.
Hey, Time-Warner! I want my C-SPAN! All three of them! On basic tier!
Thomas M. Sipos is editor of California Freedom, the newspaper of the Libertarian Party of California. He may be contacted through his website at http://www.CommunistVampires.com.