WHO WE ARE-Recently several members of the U.S. Congress asked the federal government to get involved in the dispute between Time Warner Cable (TWC), the powerful cable monopoly in Los Angeles, and DirecTV, as well as other smaller cable companies in the area. Time Warner paid handsomely for the rights to telecast the Dodgers … apparently without much consultation with the folks they need to help carry the games … and are having trouble strong-arming DirecTV and others into the big fees they think they need to cover their investment.
TWC obviously believed that public demand and pressure would force DirecTV and the others to bite regardless of how big the fee was they were being asked to swallow.
The arrogance displayed by TWC is emboldened by the monopoly protection they have received. Janice Hahn, one of the 7 complaining members of Congress, was a member of the Los Angeles city Council and did nothing to try to control the cable television monopoly that had been granted by the City of Los Angeles.
Ms. Hahn conveniently ignores the actions of her own brother in the creation of these powerful cable television monopolies. James Hahn was City Attorney for the City Los Angeles when the city spent millions of dollars in order to prevent competition within the monopoly cable television industry. James Hahn would go on to be mayor of Los Angeles before his current employment as traffic court judge.
The legal position advocated by James Hahn that cable television was a "natural monopoly" has proven to be absurd in hindsight. In 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the granting of monopolies for cable television by the City of Los Angeles was in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The case of Preferred Communications vs City of Los Angeles established the First Amendment protection for entering the cable television market.
What is the position of the same 7 members of the United States Congress when it comes to net neutrality? We cannot trust the same cable TV company that would hold Dodger fans hostage with control over the Internet. TWC seeks to extort competitors in the market. Why should every person who wants video service be forced to pay a fee in order to subsidize the Dodgers and the greed of TWC?
Does the position of these elected officials, in regards to cable television, apply only to the Los Angeles Dodgers? Do they have any concern for monopolistic power and the overall effects that this same cable-television company will have upon broadband Internet access?
Internet access and broadband neutrality are issues that will affect every citizen in the United States as well as Los Angeles County. The same politicians have not addressed the issues that relate to TWC’s potential merger with Comcast. They've also not addressed their positions relative to net neutrality and the FCC proposal to eliminate net neutrality. These matters all affect the largest cable television companies in the United States, including TWC. Now that these politicians have involved themselves in the cable-television industry they seek to have limited discussion about their positions. Once you breach the subject matter, in this case cable-television you cannot pretend that the other problems, which are larger and have a greater affect upon the general population are not issues.
This is the political dodge where you discuss minor aspects of a subject but refuse to discuss all the factors that relate to that subject. The selected complaints of these elected officials merely indicate their lack of concern or knowledge about the operations of the cable television industry in the United States.
Under the current method of distribution for Los Angeles Dodgers games, which is now controlled by TWC, any fan that wants to see a game is forced to purchase service from TWC. Since the Dodgers did not set any rules for TWC to purchase the rights to all video of the games, the Dodgers did not have any concern for what the fans best interests were.
Our elected officials continue to dodge the issues related to net neutrality, while waging irrelevant skirmishes for the sake of appearance. They refuse to discuss the impact of mergers that will destroy the little competition that does exist. As long as we allow elected officials to dodge the important issues within an industry, such as the power to control desired programming for its own best interests we cannot expect our best interests to be considered.
If TWC can take such an aggressive position with DirecTV, what position do you think they will be able to take against the average citizen when they become the gatekeeper of the Internet, as proposed by the FCC?
(Clinton Galloway is the author of the fascinating book “Anatomy of a Hustle: Cable Comes to South Central LA”. This is another installment in an ongoing CityWatch series on power, influence and corruption in government … Corruption Watch. Galloway is a CityWatch contributor and can be reached here. Mr. Galloway’s views are his own.)
Vol 12 Issue 63
Pub: Aug 5, 2014