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.

Three obsessive audio edits

The movie South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is a work of genius, and probably one of the best musicals ever. It also works well as audio. I’ve ripped the DVD and edited it into MP3s, with all the songs separated from the linking dialog, so we can either listen to the whole thing or just the music. I did something similar editing to MiniDisc a year or two ago, and we rather unwisely listened to it while traveling to Montreal, resulting in “Blame Canada” being in my head the whole time.

Montréal 1

I spent an entire day in Montreal with Visage’s Fade to Grey stuck in my head. This was for three reasons: The hotel room was right next to the elevator shaft, and the motor made a noise like the rising synth boing that appears at several points in the song after the line “We fade to grey”. The song is partly in English and partly in French, rather like Montreal. I had watched The Teletubbies that morning on Canadian TV, and this had reminded me of the fact that a few months ago Steve Strange of Visage was convicted of shoplifting a Teletubby.

Montréal 3

The local delicacy is fève aux lard. Fève is broad beans, which have always been my #1 least favorite vegetable. Lard is lard. Clearly some strange new usage of the word “delicacy” etc etc.

Montréal 4

The people of Montréal drive like the French. For Americans, think “Boston drivers at double or triple the speed.” Canadians in Vancouver drive like lunatics as well; I think if I get one more data point from Toronto I’ll be ready to draw a more general conclusion.