Monday, May 2, 2011

Another quick one on broadcast TV

At the risk of flogging a long dead horse, this passage from a Yahoo Finance post struck nerve:
Living in Oregon, we have a lot of rainy days, and without the television for the kids to watch on occasion, it could get ugly. I must admit, I am also a primetime junkie, and that is my relaxation time, as well as the time when we all get to sit down and enjoy family time together. So despite how much this service costs, it is one that will always be a part of our budget.
As I've mentioned before (a few times), not only is it still possible to watch TV for free, the technology has improved tremendously. The signal is digital and stations can carry multiple channels. I get over a hundred here in LA. In other words, my rabbit ears give me something about one or two steps up from basic cable.

For free.

Of course, a smaller urban center like, say, Portland, Oregon, will have fewer channels but as you can see here, the selection is still pretty good, particularly when compared to the thread-bare line-up from "Comcast Portland Regional - Standard" which not only offers fewer total channels, but also includes just two satellite stations, Discovery and WGN.

Unless you're a Cubs fan or you really like cable access, you'll probably get better programs through an antenna (for example, right now Portland broadcast TV is showing a Sundance winner that's not available on basic cable). You'll also have less image compression, you won't have to deal with the cable company and, just in case this point isn't plain enough, it's FREE!

I'm sure the author wasn't trying to give bad advice here. I'm certain she just didn't know about the other options, but of course that's the problem.

Between cable TV and the internet, consumers are feed an unprecedented stream of advice, but most of it is really bad, an ugly mix of lazy writing, inadequate-to-non-existent research and, worst of all, dependence on the very companies that provide the products and services being purchased.

One consequence of this is that consumers hear almost nothing about options that don't have the backing of a major industry. Another is that narratives are shaped to suit business interests. Check out almost any CNBC clip from say 2007 for excruciating examples.

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