Consumers losers in cable, network war

The current battle between the Canadian television networks and the cable companies reminded me of a misadventure that my buddies and I had at the Calgary Stampede when we were all in our late teens.

The current battle between the Canadian television networks and the cable companies reminded me of a misadventure that my buddies and I had at the Calgary Stampede when we were all in our late teens.

The old Calgary Corral was the scene of a giant beer garden with a few less checks and balances than were absolutely necessary.

It was a draft beer-fuelled free for all in a giant cavern filled with a generation of young Baby Boomers with only a paper thin grasp on a rule book. Cheap beer made that grip much weaker.

Eventually the mix became volatile and a giant barroom brawl took place in our entire section of the Corral.

My buddies and I were trapped in a no-man’s land between the upper and lower section and we weren’t about to take sides in the battle.

We weren’t wearing blue UN peace-keeper helmets and we were not there to mediate the situation, but somehow both groups ignored us as they sorted out their communication problems.

The whole thing had a Long Branch Saloon dust up feel to it, but the excessive amount of blood spilled in the event was definitely real.

We followed a hastily assembled plan of survival, complete with a non-intervention pact as long as they didn’t spill our beer.

We were Switzerland in this skirmish and we wanted to come out of this war in the same condition as that country — as long as they didn’t spill our beer- that was our major concern so I mentioned it twice.

It was one of the smartest decisions that any of us had made by that point in our lives.

The problem with the current battle between cable companies and networks is that we will all be dragged into this fiasco. They have spilled plenty of our beer in this one and I am not sure that we can take a side with either as a force of truth and justice in this brawl.

The final outcome will likely be a bigger monthly cable bill, so consumers will spill the last blood.

The situation revolves around a revenue shortfall for Canadian TV stations that has already cost us a local station.

Now Canadian TV wants a piece of the cable pie to offset the shortfall and neither side feels responsible.

Good thing that I have a solution: Let’s rewrite the rule book.

Cable sells their product in packages that often include stations that I will never watch. Included in their mandatory choices are French channels, music channels, children’s channels and a host of other non-choices.

The net result is a menu in which I ordered seafood and got seafood as well as a bill for chicken, prime rib and a children’s platter. I can throw a plateful of food on the floor if I don’t want to consume it, but I will get the tab regardless.

Let’s let consumers buy what they really want and scrape the rest of the unwanted channels into the garbage and off the menu choices.

Then charge a fee for the popular channels left and discount the monthly bill for the channels in the dumpster.

Everybody wins and cable customers don’t have to get involved in a brawl they didn’t start or want.

Jim Sutherland is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.

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