The end of over-the-air TV? (5×8 – 4/10/13)

The coming assault on the TV viewer, are restaurants getting louder, what happens to the people replaced by machines, the return of Dad’s shirt, and when Minnesota lawmakers feud.


The commercial broadcasters, the ones that aren’t on cable, are raising a ruckus over an upstart service — Aereo — which scoops up over-the-air signals of TV stations and transmits them to the phones and computers of people willing to pay. The local stations lose the fees cable services pay to carry the over-the-air channels.

Commercial broadcasters have been unable to get the service shut down and the New York Times reports that they’re thinking of taking it out on the people who can’t afford pay TV, by moving their content to cable.

The head of the board that represents Fox-affiliated stations said Tuesday that it backed Mr. Carey, and suggested that the stations could start broadcasting two flavors, a light version over the airwaves that would be without hit sports and entertainment programming, and a fuller version for subscribers to cable and satellite providers that pay the necessary fees.

On Monday night, the chairman of Univision, Haim Saban, backed Mr. Carey publicly, saying that his network, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the country, would also consider converting to a cable channel. Representatives for NBC, which is owned by Comcast, and ABC, which is owned by Disney, declined to comment on Tuesday. But Steve Burke, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, expressed his support for Mr. Carey’s point of view privately, according to a person who insisted on anonymity.

Let’s step back and here recall who owns the frequencies on which the local stations transmit and what it says in the FCC license that gives the TV stations the opportunity to be in business. It says the stations are licensed to operate in the public interest.

Perhaps this is a good time to revisit what that means.


I thought it was just me.

Jeremy Iggers, writing on the Twin Cities Daily Planet, says he’s been to three restaurants lately where the noise dictated the dining experience.

Not all noise is created equal, and the noise levels varied from place to place. Loudest was Morrissey’s Irish Pub, 913 W. Lake St., Minneapolis, where the solo guitar player was very good and very loud, but he was louder than he was good. The problem here seemed to be that the musician was amping up to be heard above the roar of conversation, and the talkers at the tables were raising their voices to be heard above the music. Like an acoustic arms race.

Which kind of defeats the whole point of an Irish pub. The Irish are a nation of storytellers, and the real charm of an Irish pub is the conviviality: people sitting around swapping stories and quaffing pints. At Morrissey’s, which has four flat-screen televisions mounted on the walls, the vibe is really really more sports bar than Irish pub. You could tell a story if you wanted to, but unless you shout, nobody will hear you–at least in the evenings, when the place is packed to capacity and there’s often a bouncer on hand.

What are you finding at area restaurants?


NPR’s Planet Money says we spend less money at the grocery store now than we did a few decades ago. Why? Because a lot of people lost their jobs…

Secrets From The Potato Chip Factory from Planet Money on Vimeo.

Which brings up the question we rarely here in economic discussions: If technology makes it more productive to do more with fewer people, what happens to people?


Since his dad died tragically two years ago, Cole Holzer has kept his father’s shirt nearby, the one he was wearing when he fell putting up Christmas lights in their Casselton home. Then he left it on a plane when the family recently flew to San Diego. The airline — Delta — searched the garbage for it and finally found it, WDAY reports.


The debate over whether the state will spend nearly $500 million to help the Mayo Clinic expand in Rochester may make the debate over the Minnesota Vikings stadium last year look like an afternoon tea.

For one thing, lawmakers at the Capitol are using the initiative to feud with each other. The Rochester Post Bulletin reports that Rep. Greg Davids is threatening to pull all support for the plan because Rep. Tina Liebling is moving to end the practice of sending Rochester sales tax money to neighboring cities.

“If Rep. Liebling is going to play her little game, I will not take part in it,” Davids told the paper, vowing to file amendments to halt the infrastructure aid for Mayo’s expansion.

In response, Rep. Liebling served up a classic slice of Minnesota nice.

“I hope that stress of the session has not been too much for Rep. Davids. I disagree with him on a tax policy issue, but I wish him all the best,” she said.

In last year’s stadium debate, the Vikings never actually threatened to leave the state. Not so with the the boss at Mayo Clinic.

“We’re never going to leave Minnesota, and we don’t want to leave Minnesota,” Dr. John Noseworthy said at the National Press Club. “But we’ve got to decide where we’re going to put the next $3 billion.”

And if that wasn’t clear enough:

“There are 49 states that would like us to invest in them,” he said.

Bonus I: The amount of money it would take to get you to willingly give up your personal information is probably less than you think. (MoneyWatch)

Bonus II: Does it matter if student loan rates double? (Time)

Bonus III: Before and after along the Red River. (MPR)


Should Social Security benefits be cut to reduce the federal deficit?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The debate over whether to have a gun control debate.

Second hour: Attracting professionals to rural areas.

Third hour: Paying for content online.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A debate from the Intelligence Squared debate series: Should we abolish the minimum wage?

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – A failing school district in El Paso, Texas, reported dramatic improvements. But rumors of cheating triggered investigations, which uncovered fake test scores, coercion, and more. NPR will report on the cheating scandal that landed the schools top official in federal prison, and left his school in turmoil.

  • jon
  • Robert Moffitt

    5) I think the Mayo project will be good for Minnesota, with much greater payoff than sports stadiums. That said, I HATE it when organizations make these kind of threats to get public funding. It’s just wrong.

    “In last year’s stadium debate, the Vikings never actually threatened to leave the state.”

    Oh, come now. That threat, even if not spoken openly, has been out there for years.

  • Bob Collins

    Bob, I didn’t say the threat wasn’t implied. I said they didn’t actually MAKE the threat.

    They didn’t need to. They had the media toadies doing it for them, despite all evidence it was not a serious threat.

  • David Brauer

    Thanks for the link to the resto noise piece. I’m 53, love eating out, and this has become a huge problem for me. (I should mention I’m a former waiter). I hadn’t considered the “oldster repellent” theory, but considering that my fellow Boomers and our parents appear to be hoarding all the wealth from younger generations, it is perhaps an ill-considered strategy to chase us away. That said, I do know that the young can be freer with what disposable income they have (or borrow), and I’m constantly amazed that Generation Debt fills eateries in greater numbers than I remember my generation doing at that age. Of course, I might also be losing my memory. GET OFF MY AMP!!

  • David

    Hey Dave, you know the surest sign of old age?

    Telling the same story consecutively.

    Having worked in restaurants when I was young I know that many bars and restaurants use the the noise for encourage table turn-over during busy times.

    I do think the issue of places that are simply noisy is distinct, but if I even suspect someplace is going to be noisy and/or crowded closely I don’t want to eat a meal at the establishment. I don’t like noise or feeling like I’m sitting with the tables around me when I eat and I’ve always been that way.

  • BJ


    I haven’t understood this one. If I get my tv streamed live to web device (like my phone), I can’t pause or skip the advertising. Doesn’t that boost advertising? Clearly the networks see something that we don’t on this.

  • jon

    BJ – #1 Perhaps you are right and they see something we don’t… I personally thing it’s an issue with how they are reporting their finances.

    Cable fees are a tangible number.

    Advertising costs based on viewers isn’t as tangible as it used to be (neilson is trying to track web viewing also, but it’s not as up to the times as tracking TV ratings is.) I think they can visibly see the loss in funds (particularly in places like New York city where broad cast TV is available, but most people can’t get it in their buildings because the steel in the buildings around them) from people using the internet instead of paying for cable.

    What they can’t see (and won’t until they follow through on their threat to go cable only) is the dramatic drop in viewers, and thus advertising prices they can charge.

    Losing the forest for the trees.

  • This threat by Fox and NBC to pull their signals off broadcast stations is a bit of theater. Although if it did happen, the local affiliates would still be on broadcast. Fox would just pull their programming into a national Fox cable channel. Which would essentially destroy most of the value of those stations.

    This is less about copyright issues than retransmission fees, as I wrote about a couple of days ago in this little rant:

  • John P.

    //If technology makes it more productive to do more with fewer people, what happens to people?

    In the olden days of technology, all of these robots, appliances, and computers were supposed to give us all tons of free time. We shoudl be working one day a week by now. I suspect the same promise was made to the people who pounded grain with rocks when the water powered mill was invented.

    It seems that recent productivity gains have gone to the 1%.

  • Name withhead by request

    / If technology makes it more productive to do more with fewer people, what happens to people?

    They are less productive when they are at work because they are pretending to work while actually reading and commenting on News Cut! 😉

  • Ben

    I’m not in the least surprised by network threats to move to cable. I’m in my later 20’s and don’t know a single person my age (myself included) that watches ANYTHING on live broadcast anymore.

    Most of the shows I do have in common with people (Community, Parks and Rec) pull dismal ratings through Neilson numbers and yet they seem to poll very high in popularity on places like Hulu (I think Community has won their “Best in Show” poll something like 2 or 3 years now).

    You can see that NBC is aware of these numbers in our age group, with their desperate “Watch It Live” ads for Community, but as long as they are a slave to outdated Neilson ratings for determining ad revenue there doesn’t seem to be much they can do about it, and as long as advertisers see Neilson as the best metric to gauge effective use of their dollars Neilson will not go away no matter how outdated it is.

    Ultimately this leaves moving to the cable fee model the only way for these networks to survive. The fact that no one I know has paid for cable for at least the last 5 years makes me wonder how much long even that model is going to remain viable in it’s current form, only time will tell I suppose…

  • Disco

    Some restaurants are loud in order to get customers in and out quickly. It’s unfortunate because some of them are really good restaurants.

    Buster’s on 28th has a stellar reputation. Their food is good and the beer selection is outstanding. But it’s crowded, and it has a metal ceiling and small tables. It’s not the kind of place you want to hang out and talk over dinner. I refuse to go there because it’s just too loud.