The end of free (5×8 – 7/28/11)

The end of free TV, the Vikes’ new man, the Tea Party illusion, when summer stinks, and how the economy really works.


The Internet gave us the power to outwit “the man.” When cable and satellite companies started digging deeper into our wallets, we showed them. We went to the Internet. It was free.

But now it’s turning out not to be such a great value in this area. “The man” always wins. The era of “free” is over, Wired Magazine is reporting today. It holds up yesterday’s announcement that Fox is going to start limiting free access to online programs as another step toward the Internet as just another utility you’ll be paying more — and more — for.

But the latest news out of Hollywood seems to indicate that enthusiasm was misplaced, premature, or both. The most recent and most dramatic sign of this came yesterday, when the Fox Network, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., announced the network would begin limiting Web access of its TV shows to viewers who subscribed to participating cable and satellite TV providers (Dish Network is the only one so far to have signed on) or subscribers to Hulu Plus, the portal’s paid-subscription service. If you don’t pay for any one of those three then you’ll have to wait eight days to watch the latest episodes of such Fox shows as “Bones” and “Glee.”

Fox’s move may not seem the sort of thing worthy of breathless “the free content dream is gone” coverage, but it’s the most dramatic example of a yearlong trend. The studios and TV networks are giving up on Web distribution on an ad-supported basis. They want to quash the perception that the Internet is some magic gateway to cut-rate content. Instead, content creators are effectively turning the Web into an extension of the cash-rich cable industry.


The Minnesota Vikings have a starting quarterback whose name is not Tavaris Jackson. So why are you all bummed out, Vikings Nation? Because it’s not Tom Brady? Donovan McNabb, onetime star for the Philadelphia Eagles, comes to the Vikings from the Washington Redskins, where his one-season stint was a disaster.

Let’s check what the Washington Post has to say about this:

A target of backstabbing by the men with whom he worked and their mouthpieces, McNabb must prove he’s not lazy and stupid. He has to regain the fourth-quarter confidence teammates once had in him. The guy who led the Philadelphia Eagles to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance must essentially show people he’s still capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.

How’d it work out the last time the Vikings had an over-the-hill quarterback with something to prove? (hint)


Why does the Tea Party get so much coverage with so few people? In yesterday’s news coverage about the debt crisis in Washington, most every TV network showed a couple of Republican lawmakers — Rand Paul, for instance — addressing a Tea Party rally outside of the U.S. Capitol, creating the illusion of a popular wave of citizens descending on Washington, demanding there be no compromise with Democrats on the question of raising the debt ceiling.

The problem, from a journalism point of view, is that’s what it is: An illusion. The TV cameras show the politicians speaking to the throng, but they never show the throng. Why not? There is no throng.

Check out, for an example, how the Tea Party rally was worked into last night’s NBC Nightly News coverage.

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Impressive. It was obviously a turnout that is influencing the debt debate in Washington.

So what’s the problem? When the “rally” started yesterday, Politico reports, there were 15 attendees. At its high point, there were 50.

This is not to say the Tea Party position isn’t valid; it’s not to say it is. It’s merely a warning that there’s a fair amount of show business involved in how the media covers these things and context, scale, and reality are often sacrificed in show business for the benefit of the production. Give credit to the Tea Party for knowing this.

A poll this week showed 56% of Americans favor a combination of cuts and taxes to solve the problem. But apparently 50 of them can’t stage a rally.


The exterior of the windows on my air-conditioned home today are steamed up. I can barely see the summer that’s out there, the one I longed for just seven short months ago.


Dale Connelly has noticed our collective ability to long for something else

Our memories are amazingly short and I suppose it’s a human survival strategy to focus so intently on the conditions that are right in front of us that we assume it has always been, and will always be so. At least it feels that way, and that’s why I am always ready to complain.

Summer 2011 is an endless sauna. I have had it with heat and humidity. Really, it’s exhausting.

Almost as exhausting, he notes, as the snowstorms that “were lined up from here to Montana, each waiting for its chance to fill my driveway with another three feet of snow.”

Let’s get this on the record. Take this survey. And sometime next winter, you’ll be asked to take an identical one. Then we’ll compare.

Meanwhile, what can we learn in this short video taken from the depths of Lake Superior? It’s really yellow down there.

(h/t: Perfect Duluth Day)


Boston Scientific — they have operations in the Twin Cities — reports a 50-percent jump in profits this morning. It also announced it’s eliminating 1,400 jobs.

Bonus 1: A girl in Washington state had a dream to raise $300 to help bring fresh water to a village in Africa by challenging her family and friends online to donate by her 9th birthday in June. Then she was injured in a car crash. She was taken off life support and died last weekend. The fund is now over a half million dollars.


Bonus 2: A new OK Go video.


We’re hearing from listeners that they’re worried about the effects on their own financial health of a failure to raise the federal debt limit. Today’s Question: Are you doing anything to protect yourself from the effects of a federal default?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: More than 40 million Americans are caring for a loved one. Caregiving for a family member is rewarding but a new study points to the financial and emotion toll it also takes.

Second hour: Haiti after the earthquake.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Is the housing sector recovering locally?

Second hour: Rep. Michele Bachmann at the National Press Club.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: What happens to high school dropouts?

Second hour: How restorative justice works.