(Point of full disclosure: I have Direct TV and was a huge fan of The Shield and Nip/Tuck) For years wise men and women have been calling for the FCC to reign in the rapid mergers within the entertainment and telecommunications industries to no avail. Now we have a fight brewing that could have consequences not only for millions of American television viewers, but the future of satellite television in America.
Nothing on television is really free, and cable providers like Time Warner, Comcast and satellite providers like Direct TV and Dish Network pay a fee to carry Nickelodeon, MTV, and all of the major networks that most Americans consider to be a basic part of any pay television package. The networks know this and therefore know that they’re in the driver’s seat when negotiating with providers because, basically, who’s going to sign up for cable or satellite if they don’t carry ESPN or TNT? So when Direct TV told Newscorp they wouldn’t pay a 40% rate increase to carry the FX network and several Fox local sports channels, Rupert Murdoch and his crew decided to take it to the streets.
Direct TV’s contract to carry the FX network and several FOX sports stations expired on September 30th and both sides have been trying to negotiate a new deal by the end of the year. Newscorp has demanded that Direct TV pay up to 40% more to carry the FX network. Yes: that’s highway robbery but with a list of hits from Nip/Tuck, The Shield, Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League and now American Horror Story, Newscorp figured Direct TV would cave to their demands faster than you can say “Don’t Change that Dial”.
When Direct TV told Fox where they could stick their new offer, FX got more creative .Starting last week FX starting running commercials with stars and writers from popular shows claiming that if fans didn’t call in and demand their shows that Direct TV would pull all of their favorite programs on November 1st .
Direct TV thought this was dirty pool and have now written a formal letter to the FCC claiming FOX isn’t negotiating in good faith and calling for an investigation into the whole process.
Of course none of this would be happening if there hadn’t been a straight line of laizee faire policies by the FCC from Clinton to Bush to Obama that has let media companies run amok and charge whatever to whomever without any consideration for the consumer. The only reason we have satellite companies to choose from is because the federal government refuses to do anything about the borderline monopoly that most cable companies have in cities – but the networks are just as bad. These kinds of carriage fights have been happening with more frequency over the last few years and are a prime example of where consumer protection has fallen short in America. Perhaps, the two companies will work out a deal before the feds get involved – but in the meantime I might never find out if Mac loses all that weight! (Shout out to all the Sunny fans out there!)
This article originally appeared at Politic365.com.