Replacing that which may disappear

Things change. Some things we wish would change more quickly, some we wish would never change, but really, we often have no control over all that, do we? 

In the case of cable as the way of accessing our news, sports and general entertainment programming, by now we all have mixed feelings, and change is happening because of that. No matter the cable company, our complaints are many: too expensive, less-than-stellar programming, too many add-on costs for better expanded programming and technology, lack of dependability, too much advertising, second-rate or nonexistent customer service, the list goes on. 

But the alternatives can seem daunting, too, especially in an area that is not fully accessible to the internet. Yet many of us are cutting the cable cord and venturing into better control over our costs and options when it comes to accessing information and entertainment. And with so many alternatives for viewing and streaming available, the big cable companies are starting to look for ways to improve their bottom lines.  

If a proposed FCC rule change is approved, that will give cable companies the out to reduce or completely do away with funding for local programming and equipment by cutting franchise fees, which now are doled out to public access television stations according to number of subscribers in their coverage area. So, as other competition is pulling back on the firm grasp cable once had on consumers, this rule change could do away with one of the most local community-centered aspects of the service: supporting local programming, including coverage of the workings of government at all levels. 

In the absence of such financial support for scrutinizing what our elected officials are doing, other ways of doing that should be found. But this is a time when local media outlets are diminishing, not increasing. Even for those that still exist, their resources are  not what they once were. The model for cable supporting local coverage may not be transferable to the current communications companies. Will Amazon or Netflix or Facebook or Apple give percentages of their profits or fees based on number of users or subscribers over to states or municipalities to provide oversight and coverage of local government or other programming?

They should, even if not required to by any government agencies. Though of course the history of companies, no matter how profitable, parting with money they are not required to is not encouraging on this front. But if these companies would like functioning communities in which to market their services, it’s time for them to rethink how they are using the money they are bringing in and redirect some back to all of the areas they serve, not just those near their corporate headquarters. 

If they are replacing cable as they market and deliver their services to consumers, they should also replace the community-based benefits that cable has been required to offer. Otherwise, it’s hard to see where such financial support will come from in the future.