À la carte TV myths

The controversy over à la carte cable and satellite programming keeps resurfacing. The basic problem is that cable prices keep rising, to the point where the basic level of digital cable is over $50 a month in many places. Prices have risen 40% in the last decade.

(As an aside, I’m amazed at the whiners in the UK who complain about paying £126.50 a year for a TV license that gets them the best premium programming from the US, as well as UK TV. I pay $588 a year to get a similar selection.)

Viewers find it galling to pay for a hundred channels when there are only a handful they watch on a regular basis. Hence there has been a campaign to get the FCC to rule that cable and satellite providers must offer the option of à la carte programming, where you can choose to subscribe to only the channels you actually want.

The cable and satellite companies don’t want to see that happen, as it would eat into their fat profits. Since the same companies own a lot of the mainstream media outlets, I’m constantly seeing astroturf coverage explaining why à la carte programming is impossible, would make your cable bills skyrocket, is tantamount to Communism, and so on.

This is my attempt to cut through a lot of the common bullshit spouted on the subject.

Daily Show transcript

I’m impressed that The Daily Show got someone who actually knows about cryptography to help with their script tonight. Most shows would string together a bunch of random Star Trek jargon words… Extract from Ed Helms talking to John Stewart about digital voting systems: Ed: Fortunately today’s e-voting systems support a robust cryptography architecture, using DES keys in CBC mode with a random initialization vector. Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Ed, the CBC encrypt uses a zero seed number so keys could be recovered by parallel processors running a virtual network protocol in a trivially short timeframe.