"600 Words by Esther J. Cepeda"
I am one of "those people" who was going to be screwed out of watching the ten o’clock news because I don’t have cable TV and the digital switchover was almost upon me.
Yes, I’d long ago applied for the discount coupons for the special receiver I imagined I’d hook up to the aluminum foil-ed bunny ears in order to watch my recommended daily allowance of TV.
So I threw in the towel last Friday – before all us non-cable-TV-viewers were given the four month changeover reprieve – and I broke up with my TV.
Instead of bothering with the reception and the unforgiving schedules (no, I also don’t have TiVo or DV-R) I just watched my TV shows on my computer.
Even better than that, I went a step further: I took my laptop upstairs, snuggled into my warm cozy bed and spent several quality hours with limited-commercial TV news reports, and full-length television shows.
Highlights from the Golden Globes, twenty-seven hours of "Miami Vice," all the "Lost" you’d ever need, "24," "House," "CSI," and countless others; I named it, and I downloaded them for free. Even HBO – a premium cable channel – is starting to put its stuff online ("In Treatment," starring Gabriel Byrne) for free.
High quality, on my schedule, in any and every room of my house. Free.
Little did I know that Monday, the Senate would vote to delay the switchover start date (it had been slated for February 17) because so many of the estimated 6.5 million U.S. households had either not ordered or received their vouchers for the special receiver or had but couldn’t find any in stores.
The measure got tripped up in Congress today, handing the Obama administration a bit of a setback, but several news outlets are reporting that to be just that: a setback.
The LA Times’ Jim Puzzanghera reports:
"Rep. Rick Boucher, the Virginia Democrat who chairs the House telecommunications subcommittee, told me he was optimistic the chamber would agree to President Obama's request and vote to put off the digital transition until June so about 6.5 million viewers won't lose their TV signals next month. "The likelihood is we’ll come back next week" and pass it, he said.
Not that it matters because from now on, unless I’m popping in a DVD, I’m watching TV on my computer or laptop. For free.
Well, I guess there is one price: the cost of my guilt from the knowledge that FREE is not a workable business model.
My tuning in through the internet and by-passing 90% of all commercials will eventually (and probably sooner than later) kill some significant portion of the advertising industry, the sales of consumer products – or both – and will put people out of jobs, which stinks.
It’s the same guilt that keeps me paying for subscriptions to three wonderful newspapers when I know damn well I mostly read them on-line because I leave my house so early the newspaper delivery man (now there’s a dude who’s hurtin’!) can’t get to my house before the 6am train pulls out of the station. Plus, I keep up-to-date during the day on their websites because it’s, yes, FREE.
From open source software – much of the art you see on this page was made on GIMP, a free graphics software I downloaded off the internet – to free printed newspapers and free web access to my favorite sites, there’s a whole lot of people paying a whole lot of money to get very little in return from me, and it’s not far from stopping.
So add fear to the guilt. Fear that at some point I’m going to – somehow – end up paying dearly for it all.
You know what they say, there’s no such thing as a "free"…anything.
Esther J. Cepeda writes the "600 Words" & "Pregunta del Dia" columns, and is also the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Her views and reporting do not necessarily reflect those of ISAC. "600 words" is a registered trademark of EeJayCee, Inc., Copyright 2008. May be reprinted with permission, contact firstname.lastname@example.org