Dropping Fox: A Thought Experiment

Brian Stelter has a piece today (10/20/10) in the New York Times explaining the latest in the fight between Cablevision and NewsCorp. NewsCorp wants the cable company to pay them more money–a lot more–for airing Fox‘s broadcast signal (and a few, smaller cable channels).The two sides couldn’t reach a deal, and as of Saturday, Cablevision customers in the New York area weren’t able to watch Fox.

NewsCorp upped the ante, as Stelter reports, byblocking Cablevision customers from accessing Fox shows on the popular streaming video site Hulu. While thatmaneuver didn’t last long, it did represent a pretty clear example of what a major media company can do to violate net neutrality.

These fights (as Megan Tady of Free Pressnoted in a piece in Extra! in March) are about giant media companies fighting amongst themselves over money, with the public mostly powerless to intervene.

But when I see Fox getting involved in these fights, I can’t help but imagine a battle over the carriage fees that cable companies pay for the Fox News Channel–costs that are passed on to you, the consumer, whether or not you watch Fox News. By some counts you pay three times more for Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity than you do for, say, MSNBC.

Sowhat if a cable company decided that was too much? And what if Fox retaliated by pulling Fox News Channel from your cable system?Somehow I think we’d all manage to get through the day.

Or, even more drastically, what if customers could choose whether or not they wanted to pay for Fox News Channel in the first place, through an ala carte cable menu? Fox rakes in millions of dollars every year from viewers and non-viewers alike; it seems like a decent media system would give people the right to not contribute to Murdoch’s empire.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.