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January 30, 2011 • Editorials

Breaking TV Monopolies Through Technology?

You can keep up with the situation in Egypt on al Jazeera English . . . if you could get it on U.S. TV

Right now, Egypt is undergoing a major upheaval, the kind of thing that may or may not lead to a new Egyptian government, and the first new Egyptian leader after nearly 30 years.  And interestingly to me (from the gear perspective) is that this is basically not being covered on American TV.  With a few shining exceptions like Richard Engel on NBC–who speaks fluent Arabic and lived in Cairo for 5 years–the number of Arab/North Africa/Mid-Eastern “experts” on American TV is very small, and there is also hardly anyone on the ground in Europe for American networks.

On the other hand, al Jazeera English is there.  Their TV network has many reporters on the ground; their web site offers live streaming; their Mid-East experts actually are, you know, experts.

But you and I can’t watch, because Islamaphobic cable carriers like Comcast don’t even offer it.  So it might as well not exist.

Well, unless you have a computer.  Then you can watch it to your heart’s content.  And get lots of other content, too.  Which got me to thinking:  how much does behavior like this drive people away from the major carriers, and into alternate online avenues?  After all, a lot of programs are available through various means.  I watch Jon Stewart only a few hours later on the Comedy Central web site.  I download many of my favorite TV shows via iTunes, or wait for them to become available via Netflix streaming (I’m watching Season 7 of “Monk” at the moment, for example).  You can get DVDs, of course, and plenty of people pirate stuff off of various torrent feeds (not that anyone here on Gear Diary advocates illegal copyright-violating activities)..

When you combine the range of alternatives with the stupid choices and moves of the various providers, I can easily see a time not too far from now when “networks” will really just be production houses, and they will get a lot of their money from other sources, rather than fees from Comcast or whoever.  Because the more providers deny you choices and force you to go elsewhere, the more you’re going to keep going elsewhere.  Because after all, why go back?  (I’ve considered cutting our cable service many times over the last few months, and would if I could figure out a way to get my son his cartoon fix.)

So now, with Egypt exploding and American TV basically dropping the ball, and the major alternative (al Jazeera) not even being available, I’m getting the news from the web and Twitter.  And I bet a lot of other folks are, too, even “mainstream media” people who are just as frustrated as I am with the lack of information.  And if the cable providers don’t watch it, they’re going to be left in the dust.

At least, that’s how it seems to me.  How about you?

3 Responses to " Breaking TV Monopolies Through Technology? "

  1. Breaking TV Monopolies Through Technology? #gadgets

  2. Geousphere says:

    RT @gadgetfreaks: Breaking TV Monopolies Through Technology? #gadgets

  3. Kellie Ryan says:

    Breaking TV Monopolies Through Technology? | Gear Diary: And interestingly to me (from the gear perspective) is …

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