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.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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.

  • “The Man” can’t win if you don’t watch TV! I quit watching TV about 5 years ago, and I still don’t miss it. Quitting TV does come with some side effects including, but not limited to, increased interest in your neighborhood; decreased interest in the Minnesota Vikings; and more quality time for friends, family, hobbies and your favorite MPR station. Prime time TV just can’t hold a candle to Mark Wheat.

  • Rick

    1) It is interesting that Fox is delaying for 8 days rather then using an ad supported model then removing some ads after 8 days. When I’m using the online content, I’m just trying to catch up and 8 days would keep me over a week behind not allowing me to get back to the normal on the TV content. I guess that I’m not the audience they are looking for with the online shows.

    3) It’s amazing what camera angles can do. I would have not known that there was less then 50 people when Rand Paul was talking if you hadn’t mentioned anything. I should start to rally with 5 of my friends and a podium and post it somewhere, I could probably have just as convincing numbers. Just get a few people to boo right by the camera and a flag in the background moving back and forth (only if I want a republican view point, otherwise I’ll just use signs)

  • 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.

    And so it goes.

  • I’m all for paying for online content such as tv or other media. I currently subscribe to Whiskey Media, Netflix, and HBO Go. I’ll gladly pay a la carte for the content I actually watch instead of paying a cable provider to only watch 20% of the content. I think I have a different mentality than most of the people my age (28) though.

    Also, I’d prefer winter over summer save for the subzero weather. Once it hits negative temperatures I’m done. Aside from that I don’t mind winter.

  • John P.

    It’s not really the end of free TV. If you are willing to go back to the local stations like we had in the olden days, you can get them for free with the purchase of an antenna.

    What do I miss? Dancing with the Stars? America’s Fattest People shows? Fox News? MSNBC? FEH! I get what I get in crystal clear HD, which Comcast charged me lots extra for. MPR, books ,and my personal music collection fills in the rest of my news and entertainment desires. That’s plenty. Those Comcast pirates still have my internet connection, unfortunately,

  • Snyder

    Those people voting for “Subzero temps, a foot of snow, wind that feels like a bad first marriage and a snowblower that keeps breaking down.” obviously are not the ones actually responsible for clearing the foot of snow when the snowblower keeps breaking down.

  • It would be interesting to see the survey again in January, when it’s 30 below zero, and see if folks still prefer it to the free sauna.

  • bench

    re: lake superior video

    The video concerns me. Not because “it’s yellow” but because there is no information about it! Where was this taken? Off the rocky shores near Minnesota? Or perhaps near the clay shores of Wisconsin? How deep was this? What time of year?

    Maybe it’s just my degree in geology forcing me to ask these questions, but they are important to know what the video is actually showing (maybe a plankton bloom?)

  • Kassie

    Give me the heat! And I don’t have a fully air conditioned house. It doesn’t matter how hot it gets a couple days later it cools down and I can walk around my neighborhood. Last winter, even when it was warmish, the snowpiles at the end of the sidewalks made walking around very difficult. Heat doesn’t take away parking spots. Heat doesn’t charge for snow removal.

    And, I finally learned the secret to sleeping in non-air conditioned bedrooms this year. Ice packs. I went to bed with two ice packs last night, quickly cooled myself down to a normal temp, and slept soundly through the night. It was great.

  • JackU

    #2 – I’ll take you back a little further, to the last time the Vikings signed a signed a successful former Eagles quarterback who had spent a year in “exile”.

    #3 – TV coverage of the Tea Party is based on last years crowds.

    #4 – Why is winter winning? We’re here, winter is longer here so why fight it.

    #5 – Does anyone else remember how “down sizing” resulted in stock price increases in 1980s?

  • Jamie

    Rick, Democrats like the U.S. flag, too.

    // “I would have not known that there was less then 50 people…”//

    Wow – two in one sentence: “…there WERE FEWER than…” (I don’t care about typos – “then”)

    Sorry, that’s my #1 grammar pet peeve. And people seem to think it’s optional now whether to match plural subjects and verb forms, so I’m going to start pointing it out. Maybe I’ll be so annoying that they’ll do it correctly to avoid hearing from me.

    Oh, and about heat vs. cold: You can mostly escape or dress for the cold, but you can’t get away from the heat and humidity (humidity’s the worst!) if you don’t have air conditioning. So I vote for winter, though I dislike winter hassles (like parking issues) more and more every year, too.

  • Suzanne

    #4: This weather is great and this summer is not nearly as hot as last. I love the windows in the a.m., too!

  • Rick the Snowman

    Re: Heat vs Snow

    I’m either “old” or at least “older” than most. My age has caused me to eschew the snow and (relatively speaking) embrace the heat for these reasons:

    * I can simply move more slowly when it’s hot and that is in keeping with my mobility trend;

    * nobody I know has died from wiping their sweaty brow. I

    do know folks who’ve died from shoveling snow;

    * older folks are more likely to slip and fall with ice on the ground. We all need to perspire very profusely to generate sufficient sweat to cause similar slippery sidewalk conditions.

    * in the winter, we “walk small” and hunch our shoulders and bodies to preserve body heat. this aggravates back and joint discomfort. In contras, we can assume a “languid posture” when it’s hot. I prefer the image of a languid gait and posture to a hunched over walk.

    Of course, your mileage may vary.