“Cut the cord” has become the rallying cry for those interested in abandoning cable television in favor of streaming online video to their phones, tablets, desktops and – forsooth! – televisions.
It’s an apt phrase, not merely for its echoes of severing the umbilical cord in the delivery room but for its metaphoric reach into that almond-shaped space in the Venn diagram between baptismal rebirth and outright renaissance.
There are variations, of course. Google indicates that “cut the cable” is a fraternal twin. It also brings up a blogger who simply calls himself “John,” who launched Cut-the-Cable.com two years ago. John matter-of-factly identifies his online effort as “the anti-COMCAST blog and resource site” and admits to having a “chip on my shoulder” due to the layoff that affords him the free time to take on the “fat bastards,” which presumably no longer fits his budget. Though his posts are sporadic, they are typically vitriolic and directed at discrediting and defaming the cable giant. Among them is a relatively recent analysis of a Houston news site story headlined “Comcast Contractor Accused of Raping a Child,” replete with a mug shot.
Whether or not John’s informative if pungent tirades are justified (and they are to anyone who has ever made a phone call to Comcast’s customer service), they’re a bellwether of sorts and he’s not alone. Crystal Collins, the discount doyenne behind TheThriftyMama.com, doesn’t cast cable providers as evildoers, she does provide a gleeful step-by-step guide to cutting the cable, which, depending on your cable consumption needs, she claims can save one upwards of $600 a year. Lifehacker.com also show how to slice and dice one’s media diet, with additional info on where to stream your favorite live television feed.
With all this blogging and flogging of cable companies, cutting their core product might seem to be grassroots movement. However, one should keep in mind the fact that broadcast networks themselves have stoked much of the fervor by streaming their content directly to consumers via their respective websites, effectively sidestepping cable – their one-time rival turned overlord (adjust a pair of rabbit ears lately? Yeah, didn’t think so).
Moreover, Hulu is a consortium of a several networks – NBC, itself owns over a 30 percent stake. This is ironic given the fact that Comcast now owns NBCUniversal (the merged version of the network and the studio). However, the Department of Justice mandated as part of Comcast’s acquisition, it “must relinquish its management rights in Hulu” lest it “interfere with the management of Hulu, and, in particular, the development of products that compete with Comcast’s video service.”
Comcast isn’t crying since they dominate much of the broadband market (at least locally). To wit, the cable behemoth still profits by the umbilical link through which the data that is, say, Parks and Recreation, comes tumbling. In fact, it’s a completely vertically-integrated strategy. The revolution is being televised on the Internet, brought to you by the very entity against which you’re in revolt. Sort of like cutting off cable’s nose to stream its face.
Our news media has all but surrendered to the forces of entertainment… And much of our news media is entertainment as opposed to news. Instead of a watchdog that is a check on the excesses of government and business, we have the endless barking of a 24-hour news cycle. We have journalism that is always ravenous for the next rumor, but insufficiently hungry for the facts that can nourish something called our democracy. As citizens, we are paying one heck of a price in the dumbing down of America.
The commercial success of both MSNBC and Fox News is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic…
…And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.