This coming April 22, the Supreme Court is going to hear a case which will threaten to leave the smell of the barnyard in its august chambers due to the fact that the plaintiffs have plenty of experience in spreading manure around.
The case is styled “AMERICAN BROADCASTING COMPANIES, INC.;DISNEY ENTERPRISES, INC.;CBSBROADCASTING INC.; CBSSTUDIOS INC.; NBCUNIVERSAL MEDIA,LLC; NBCSTUDIOS,LLC; UNIVERSAL NETWORK TELEVISION,LLC; TELEMUNDO NETWORK GROUP LLC;WNJU–TV BROADCASTING LLC;WNET;THIRTEENPRODUCTIONS, LLC;FOX TELEVISION STATIONS, INC.;TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION;WPIX,LLC; UNIVISION TELEVISION GROUP, INC.;THE UNIVISION NETWORK LIMITED PARTNERSHIP; AND PUBLIC BROADCASTING SERVICE; vs. AEREO, INC., F/K/A BAMBOOM LABS, INC.
This is the biggest group of manure spreaders in the world against a little company that had the temerity to develop a way to receive, over the air, FREE, ADVERTISER SUPPORTED programming and let you see it on your iPad or smartphone for about $8 a month.
And they want the Federal Government to stop it.
Now I need to be clear here.
We’re not talking about ESPN or Fox News or CNN or any other pure cable channel.
We’re talking about companies that went, hats in hand, to the Federal Communications Commission, applied for and received licenses to broadcast “in the public interest, convenience and necessity” and, as compensation for doing that, sell advertising in their copyrighted programs they broadcast for free. (All except for PBS and WNET, which use fundraising appeals and Government money.)
For many years, this was a tremendous business. It still is.
The only slight flaw was the fact that in many places, even broadcasting from the tallest towers around, some people couldn’t get the signals.
So, back in the 60s, something called Community Antenna Television was born, which is exactly what the name says.
People paid someone to put up a master antenna and run a cable to their house so they could get a good signal without putting up their own antenna.
That morphed into the cable television business when the CATV operators realized they could put their own signals on that cable and charge more for it.
And, one day, America woke up and found out it was paying something like $100 a month to watch TV—including the free local channels.
Enter the internet and Aereo.
Appropriately-named Bamboom Labs came up with an interesting idea. Why not have a little antenna farm and, instead of distributing the signal on an analog cable, use the internet to distribute those free signals?
Why not indeed.
Well, the aforementioned manure spreaders—which it should, again, be noted include supposedly not for profit public broadcasters—had started charging cable systems for the right to carry them on the cable, and they don’t want that revenue stream interrupted. So they have threatened the Supreme Court in their brief to get out of the over-the-air broadcasting business.
Ahh, the sweet smell of number two in the chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
It reminds me of a line from Mel Brooks’ movie “Blazing Saddles” where Cleavon Little puts a gun to his head and says, “Hold it. Next man makes a move, and the nigger gets it.”
This august group of manure spreaders is threatening the Supreme Court with killing off their multi-Billion dollar business if they don’t get their way.
One would only hope that the Supremes will call their bluff, exactly like it did when the lead plaintiff sued Sony back in 1984 over the introduction of the home videocassette machine.
And if the FCC had any cojones (it doesn’t), it would look at the broadcast holdings of each of the aforementioned manure spreaders to see how well they have been serving as trustees in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.
Photo credit: afagen (Creative Commons)
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom