Posted by Jonathan in GENERAL on 10-19-10 No Comments
If you are one of the many miserable New Yorkers like me, sitting at home wondering what on earth you’re going to do without the Giants, the baseball playoffs and the rest of the Fox TV network lineup, clearly the first step in getting sports back in your life is getting up a little outrage over the Fox-Cablevision carriage dispute and what these two companies are trying to do.
1) Football does not belong to Fox
News Corp likes to argue that the sports programming Fox carries is their content. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, they paid good money for it, and they get to decide what it’s worth and where it’s distributed, but professional athletics is hardly their property. Unlike, say, Glee, American Idol or The Simpsons, which are shows News Corp makes or pays to have made, sports is not private property. The NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL operate in a complex public-private partnership that marries tax dollars for stadium spending, nonprofit designations for leagues and anti-trust waivers to allow teams to control enough territory to create the critical mass that creates a first-tier franchise. What News Corp owns is the franchise to broadcast these game, but not the right to control access. That power clearly lies with our larger society, since we pay for it in direct public money, deferred tax dollars and lost value as a result of the reduced competition monopolies create. From what I can tell from the contracts leagues sign, News Corp is completely out of bounds in claiming it can decide who sees the game and who does not. That would be like the ticket-taker at Yankee Stadium telling you your ticket is no good because he is having a labor fight with his boss.
2) The cable network does not belong to Cablevision
Cablevision likes to say the cable network is theirs. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. These networks run over fiber or coax cable networks that almost entirely are in public rights of way and private property. These rights are granted on a town-by-town basis and are tightly regulated by cities and states. What Cablevision does is a collect a fee for providing service over these rights of way. Cablevision, for example, has to air emergency notification tests as part of its rights of way and must also provide public access channels and other services as part of its role in the larger community. Considering that sports exist through the conscious social decision to have them, it is completely beyond Cablevision’s purview to argue that it can control sports programming as a means of exacting a concession from a vendor. Again, this would be like the school crossing guard charging kids to walk across the street. This company is a hired traffic cop for our society. It cannot decide what kind of content gets across the road.
Bottom Line: Sports are ours
No company has the right to decide if you can see a first-tier sporting event on a public network, especially when the event is likely taking place in a publicly financed stadium. These companies have a say, of course, and both businesses deserve a place in our society, but they do not have the right to stand the way of what is rightly a common social resource.
Sports are ours, and we all have the right to see them.
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