On the New York Times website are photos from the concert at the Lincoln Memorial this afternoon. Great photos of the people gathered to see it, of the President and Vice President elect along with their families, and the artists who performed. Along with the photos are some descriptions of the event – who sang, what they said, what Barack Obama said. On the Huffington Post I found a link to a web broadcast of the concert. Unfortunately, by the time I found it, the concert was over. If I like, though, I can go back at 7 p.m. or 11 p.m. and try again. This generous gesture from HBO does some small bit to make up for the fact that they basically stole this event from the American people by purchasing the exclusive rights to the broadcast. Why stole, you may ask, if they paid for the rights? Because this was not something that should have been sold. This was part of the Inaugural events that should be open and freely available to everyone whether they could afford access to HBO on cable or through it’s internet link. This is a part of history, it is a public event that could only be held as exclusive if all the other networks and news organizations were willing to accept the fact that they couldn’t cover it. What was it that made ABC cover Obama’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial live but not show the concert? Somebody told them not to? How dare anyone decide that something held on public property, with the participation of our newly elected public officials participating, an event leading up to the swearing in of our 44th President, with millions of people excited to see everything to do with the day that we finally get to see the new President take office, how dare they steal this and keep it for the few from the many? By what right?
Why do I care about this? Because it is just another example of how free TV is being replaced by pay TV. There is an assumption that everyone has cable. They don’t. There is an expectation that most people can have access to the internet. Not true. People think that because libraries have computers and there are schools with internet access that the majority of Americans are connected. They are not. Most people living under the poverty level cannot afford the $100+ per month to pay for cable. Dial-up internet barely gets you anything anymore with the bandwidth required for any live streaming totally beyond what such old-fashioned methods allow. And libraries? Are you kidding? In our town the library has maybe four computers available when they’re open and that’s not all that much so what are they talking about? That’s for people who want to go check email in the afternoon on their way to the grocery. It’s more a way of life for penny-pinching senior citizens. For anyone with serious interest in anything more, a home computer and internet connection is what they need. I pay for it because I couldn’t stand doing without it, and I offset the cost by using it for my phone service, which makes it cheaper than any land-line telephone service alone. Still, it’s money I really shouldn’t spend. Anybody living below the poverty level with kids to feed is never going to be able to afford it. As for cable, I only have what they call “basic” which means I get to pay for what I used to get for free, network broadcasts plus some a couple of extra channels that offer nothing much of value. There’s a debate in the courts now about maybe cable companies won’t be required to carry C-SPAN if they have to offer too many local access stations. Our local access channels (which I do have) carry a little of this and that, some local bands, some talk between a couple of geezers, mostly poorly shot with generally terrible sound quality. They cover town meetings, which is of value although probably pretty boring for most people. They do have a kind of neat view of the eagle bird’s nest above Barton Cove. You can watch the chicks get hatched and the eagles feeding the chicks and all, very cool. But should this replace CSPAN? No. Not that I get CSPAN. I would have to subscribe to an “expanded standard” cable package. So, no CSPAN, no CNN, and mostly I’m locked out of everything important that goes on because the networks have abdicated their responsibility for news coverage, claiming they no longer have to because now there’s all those cable news channels. Is this anyway to run a country? Nope.