Pop Culture With Paul Farhi: Ex-CBS producer pleads guilty in Letterman case; Cable TV -- network battle, Oscar leftovers, Census Bureau TV ads, more

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Paul Farhi
Tuesday, March 9, 2010; 1:00 PM

Pop Culture With Paul Farhi explores the latest in the world of pop culture, trends and daily news. Today, Farhi looks at the brewing battle between cable TV companies and the networks, leftover Oscar business, those Census Bureau TV ads and more.

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Paul Farhi: Thanks for stopping by...So, you may have missed it (because you have a life), but there was another flareup in the great network-cable border wars this past weekend. About 3.1 million subscribers to Cablevision Systems in the New York area missed a day's worth of ABC programming, including the first 10-15 minutes of Sunday's Academy Awards telecast, in the latest outbreak of hostilities (i.e., an argument over money) between the nets and cable companies.I won't bore you with too much background (I'll only bore you with a little). The short version goes like this: ABC (and other networks, too) want cable companies like Cablevision (and Time Warner and Comcast, etc.) to pay them for carrying the networks' owned and operated local stations (in tje ABC-Cablevision faceoff, this meant WABC-7). Cable companies, for the most part, now carry these stations for free. When ABC and Cablevision couldn't agree on a price (Cablevision was fine with that whole free thing), ABC yanked its signal. Leverage, you see.The networks argue that a station like WABC airs some of the most popular programs ("Lost," the aforementioned Oscars) watched by Cablevision's subscribers and thus ABC should get paid. Plus, as the networks' economic foundation crumbles, they argue that they HAVE to get paid. Cable companies reply that they've already compensated the broadcast industry, directly and indirectly, by 1) delivering the network-owned stations to millions of their subscribers; and 2) by paying lots and lots of money to the broadcasters' parent companies (ABC-Disney, Fox-News Corp., etc.) for cable networks owned by those parent companies (in ABC's case that's ESPN, ABC Family, etc.) So, what does all this mean for little ol' you? That's the easiest part of the whole story: You'll eventually pay more for cable. If, and perhaps when, the cable guys pay up, they'll pass the additional cost on to you (how do they do it? Volume!). Unless...Unless one of two things happen: 1) you switch to alternative provider (satellite, FiOS), which has so far avoided these disputes and/or 2) the day comes when the cable industry offers programming a la carte, meaning you can pick what you want to watch, and only what you want, and pay accordingly. Since no one in the cable industry wants 2), I think your options are pretty limited. Prepare to pay, folks...In other news: I liked the Oscar telecast this year somewhat, incrementally, marginally more than year's past. Was it Martin and Baldwin (the name of my law firm, coincidentally)...?. I thought they were a good pair, and the show seemed to move somewhat faster than I recall. But can we try this, please: Pair down the minor award presentations (make-up, cinematography and what not) and stick with the big time stuff (actor, actress, pic, etc.). You'd lop an hour of really boring stuff out of the evening. As is, they hand out "technical" awards a week before the main event, and no one complains.In other, other news: Have received some sound and fury about those Christopher Guest-directed commercials for the Census Bureau (I wrote about 'em on Saturday). Some people--I think they're called "fiscal conservatives"-- want to know why ANY ads are necessary from the Census. Well, I can answer that. But first......let's go to the phones...

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a la carte cable: What are the chances I will ever be able to pay Time-Warner only for the few cable channels I actually watch, rather than for hundreds I never do? I periodically look at the "extra" and "premium" channels I get, including Premium On-Demand services, and see how little they actually cost, and how little I would save if I dropped them. It's the huge glut of channels I am required to get in order to get these 'frills" that make my bill so big.

Paul Farhi: But no cable system can afford to do without ESPN; the hardcore of sports fans would scream bloody murder. Thus, $4 it is. A la carte programming would upset this entire ecosystem in unpredictable ways.

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The Oscars: Mr. F: Since the Oscars are about as pop culture as it can get -- is there a pop culture rule there has to be one waaaaaay too long idiotic dance sequence every year?

Paul Farhi: I LOVED that wacky dance sequence. I have no idea what it had to do with any of the movies being honored. But so what? It was great. Fantastic athleticism and beauty on display. Why is that a problem?

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Rocci Fisch: 'Snapshot of America': These are Census Bureau ads? Go figure.

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Womens Basketball: From a purely ratings standpoint, is the amount of airtime given to women's basketball justifiable? If the attendance numbers (relative to other sports) are any indication, very few people care about either women's college basketball, or the WNBA.

Paul Farhi: But is all that much airtime being devoted to women's basketball? I mean, it doesn't take over CBS's schedule the way March Madness (men's version) does. All of those ESPN networks ("the Ocho") have tons of time to fill. Why not fill 'em with the women's NCAA's? Interesting, no?

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Alexandria, Va.: At the risk of being politically incorrect, is there anything more annoying on the airwaves now than those endless Susan Komen Race for the Cure radio ads? While I support the goals of the organization, I can't stand the self-obsessed comments of the featured participants. It's all "me, me, me." My favorite is the woman angry because SHE couldn't "have her say" before her mother died. Rather than wanting to participate, my reaction is to keep miles away from people like that.

Paul Farhi: My questions are the following: Does the Race for the Cure (and the Walk for the Cure) do any good? Does it raise money for breast-cancer research? Is the advertising the most effective way to maximize participation in the Race and the Walk? If you can answer yes to these questions, then I say godspeed to all.

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Justified: Hi Paul - Any advance opinions on the upcoming FX series "Justified"? "You'll like Justified if you liked..."? At face value, I'm looking forward to any series that features both Olyphant and Goggins.

Paul Farhi: I've seen promos for it the past few days. It looks kinda generic. I'm not sure WHY I should watch it. What's the exciting premise? What's the title mean? And Olyphant and Goggins? Who?

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An entire article about Christopher Guest: and no mention of Spinal Tap?

Paul Farhi: I thought about that! But: Guest was IN "Spinal Tap" but did not direct it (that's Rob Reiner). Since he directed the Census ads, what seemed relevant was his directorial work (i.e., "Best in Show," "Waiting for Guffman," etc.). So, no "Spinal Tap." But if it makes you feel better, "Spinal Tap" is one of my all-time favs.

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Burke, Va.: The only Census ad I've seen was the one shown during the Super Bowl. I think it totally missed the point -- it was a quirky, brand recognition-type ad, which is fine for, say, E-Trade, but isn't what you want for the Census. You're not trying to make people aware that the Census exists, you want them to be motivated to fill out and return the form. A straight-forward "here's how census data is used" ad would have been much better and to the point.

Paul Farhi: don't you want to do BOTH things--make people aware that the Census is coming AND that you're supposed to fill out your form? Personally, I thought the ad, and the entire series of ads, was lacking on both counts.

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A la Carte Cable Programming: If cable companies were required to keep track of every single station that every single home wanted and had to supply those separately and bill them separately, the costs of that kind of management would be unbelievable. It's cheaper to have a few tiers with software to block them in groups, than to have thousands of combinations of blocking choices. We would then wish we could get everything for one comparatively low price. Also, when you pick the, for example, 30 stations you like most, you will never have the chance to perhaps find something new and different, or if some special program is aired on some new channel, you would have to order it for your system. It's so much easier to just send everything.

Paul Farhi: No question that selling channels on an individual basis would very likely be a nightmare (as well as expensive). But what about some variation on what is done now with basic, expanded basic, expanded premium basic and basic expanded premium super basic, etc.? Allow me to select from packages and groupings--the sports package, the news package, the movie package, etc. Sell it in blocs of programming, by theme. Is that so hard? Maybe it is, but it's so close to what's done now that I can't quite imagine the objection.

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The cable industry: What I think may be happening is that the cable business is trying to figure out how it will be able to hang onto subscribers in the new digital world. At 62, I think I am too old to hassle with this, but I continually read about people who are cutting the cable cord and streaming video through their computer to their HDTV. The video store is dying because of NetFlix and Red Box and online movie screening. In 10 years, cable and satellite TV may not exist--or it will be in a very different form and different delivery system

Paul Farhi: So this may not turn out to be a straight line from Point A to Point B.

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re: majority of fans for women's games on TV are men. Interesting, no?: I'm female and not into basketball at all. But a good male friend of mine is really into women's basketball. Men's basketball is still his favorite sport, but he said he gets tired of some of the soap opera drama that goes along with all the superstar egos. When he watches the women play he says it's just great basketball without all the drama.

Paul Farhi: That's one of the upsides of the women's game, yes. And great fundamental play, too. Downsides: Not close to the athleticism and speed of the men's game and not close to the same competitive balance. A few teams in women's basketball tend to dominate year after year in a way that's not true of men's.

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Census ads: My jaw dropped when I read the cost of those quirky ads for the Census. Honestly, you want a good count but the people most often "missed" are those who are not going to be watching or "getting" those ads. What a waste. Where did they get their budget appropriation?

Paul Farhi: Congress. Those are your tax dollars at work, of course.

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A straight-forward "here's how census data is used" ad would have been much better and to the point.: Yawn...

Paul Farhi: Yes, yawn, but do we really need the Census Bureau--the ultimate bean-counters--to get funky? The Census effects every single American. The bureau has to speak to every single one of us. I don't think getting really arty is the way to do that.

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Christopher Guest and commercials : I found out only recently that directing spots has been Guest's bread and butter for years. On NPR, Jane Lynch (the crazed cheerleader coach on Glee) said that she was cast years back in a Frosted Flakes commercial Guest was directing. He liked her work, which led to roles in Best In Show and A Mighty Wind, which in turn led to Glee.

Paul Farhi: Yes, and he did the recent series of ads for DirecTV, in which Ed Begley plays a pompous, arrogant cable executive and Michael Hitchcock plays a goofy junior exec. I think that casting might have led to some confusion with the Census series, since Begley and Hitchcock are in the Census ads, too.

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Luddite: Once again I'm really glad I've held out against the pressure to get cable. I live atop a ridge so am able to get excellent over-the-air TV signals. Just think of all the money I've saved the past 30+ years. Plus, who ever went to their grave lamenting, "Gee, I sure wish I'd watched more TV"?

Paul Farhi: And to the extent that more provides better (in most cases, it does, but not always), I'm happy I have 8,000 choices.

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Oscars: Get rid of the "interpretive dance" number, the lame salute to "horror" and needless filler and show us the award winners. I think one of the most interesting spots on the show (and one spoofed by The Daily Show, last night) was the acceptance speech for the Best Documentary, Short Subject. With the South African subject looking on, the male producer began accepting the award only to be interrupted by the female producer, who said, "Typical man..." before she got cut off by the orchestra. And Best Documentary, Long Subject producers held up their Web site before getting cut off by the cameras. This is good, quality live TV. I don't need fancy dancin'. Just show me the winners!

Paul Farhi: True, cutting out the "minor" awards would eliminate some of those unexpected moments (like the Kanye thing and the banner). But mostly that DOESN'T happen. Mostly, they bore people. I think eliminating many minutes of boredom vs. hoping for something unexpected is a fair tradeoff.

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Remember when the cable news channels...: used to actually show the news? When CNN started it was meant to be a TV version of all-news radio stations or like the evening news all day long, meaning you watched it for a half hour and found out quite a bit about what was going on in the world. Now, all the cable news stations show is missing people, scandals,or opinion shows; even CNN Headline News is a mere shell of itself. Now, if I really want to know what is going on the world, I have to watch BBC News World or France 24, or EuroNews, or even Al Jazeera English. Luckily in the Washingon area, we can get those last three because they are on WNVC-Channel 30. What do people in the rest of the country do, except listen to an all-news station and imagine the pictures?

Paul Farhi: CNN (and the other news channels) discovered long ago that talk ABOUT the news (or about certain news stories, particularly politics) beats covering the news. Shocking revelation: The domestic news networks are primarily concerned about maximizing their audiences, not covering the news.

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Arlington Gay: Regarding the Walk for the Cure. I participated in four AIDS Rides and I can attest that all of the comments in the ads are true and sincere. These large scale events really are life-changing. And the breast cancer walks make INSANE amounts of profit for their cause. I crewed a couple of 'em (support staff). I smile when those ads come on.

Paul Farhi: I think that pretty well addresses the earlier complaint about 'em!

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Your Ghost Editor: In the penultimate paragraph of your intro to today's chat you stated (in re: Oscar telecast) "Pair down the minor award presentations . . . " Too much figureskating viewing, Mr.F ? Try "pare down"!

Paul Farhi: Busted! Thank you, Ghost Editor.

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Cenus Ads: Paul, I understand the "Fiscally Conservative" argument against the census ads, even though I don't agree. I really just wanted to point out one flaw in the argument: They may have paid $3.2mil or whatever for that Super Bowl ad, BUT they got a ton of free press in the process. You gave them a free, front page, color ad encompassing half of the Style Section. We're continuing to talk about it now. That's the kind of advertising that you can't buy. I think it plays really nicely into the "any publicity is good publicity" theory.

Paul Farhi: to do it. If fiscal conservatives want to argue that the Census Bureau should spend nothing on advertising, that's one thing. But if it's going to advertise (and it should), it's hard to argue that the Super Bowl was a bad place to advertise. And 2) "Buzz" IS good to have. But it's very hard to count on, and I doubt the Census people knew how much buzz they'd get.

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Census: I received the Census form. It was lengthly and detailed. It seemed odd since most of the data could have been pulled behind the scenes from Fed and state tax records. I read a long time ago that the raw data will be available on the Internet for people to query and download. Is there anything to that?

Paul Farhi: Well, the Census does publish its findings, if that's what you mean. And pulling tax data wouldn't really satisfy the constitutional directive to do a census every 10 years, I don't think...

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Census Ads: What was the point of the Census ads during the Olympics? I thought the purpose of the advertising was to convince people across all demographic groups to return their form. Since Olympics-viewing skewed older and whiter than the country as a whole, I'm not sure what was accomplished.

Paul Farhi: The Census has to reach EVERYONE, one way or another. Older, whiter Americans fit that definition, I think (and as an older, whiter American I certainly HOPE that's true). There will be lots of ads in specialized media as well...

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The Kanye thing: Interesting how "pulling a Kanye" or doing the "Kanye" thing has entered our collective vocabulary and consciousness. The power of YouTube?

Paul Farhi: Great, eh? The language and the culture move quick-like. I like...

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Christopher Guest and commercials (cont.): Not to mention he's married to Jamie Lee Curtis, the Queen of Activia!

Paul Farhi: To me, Jamie Lee's career is defined by those ads. Or maybe defined by Kristen Wiig's caricature of her in those ads.

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TV Land: Why is it that people that don't watch TV always make it a point to mention that they don't watch TV? Is it because they don't have anything else to do with all that free time?

Paul Farhi: I want to say, "How do you know?"

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Your local freelance editor: Paul says: "The Census effects every single American." Affects, not effects. Affects, affects, affects. Sorry--I spend a lot of time correcting this mistake. Carry on.

Paul Farhi: Thanks again. I always screw that up. I've been told the rule at least 75,000 times, but I can never seem to get it straight.

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Re: Justified: Any fans of Deadwood and The Shield know Oliphant and Goggins quite well.

Paul Farhi: I wonder what the crossover is on that. Let's see the hands of those who loved "Deadwood" AND "The Shield"...Yep, about what I thought.

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NHL vs. Womens Basketball: Considering the NHL has to beg and plead to get its games on cable, I would say there are numerous other options than the constant air time the games receive. The real question is outside of the political correct reason for showing women's basketball, would it get nearly as much airtime as the ratings justify or is it shown for largely political reasons (my guess is the second).

Paul Farhi: Political reasons? Really? I don't think political reasons play much of a role when someone is paying a few million dollars to the NCAA for the rights fees. What "political" reason would force anyone to do that?

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cable news: I think if you want to actually see the news you have to get beyond the "big" networks. Watch BBC World. Or even CNN International. One of the things I really love about FiOS is the access to better news sources. And they carry most of the MHz networks which are devoted to foreign news services like France 24, NHK World, Al Jazeera English, etc.

Paul Farhi: Yes, good news sources all. Unfortunately, not many people watch any of those sources. But that's what choice is for, isn't it? My choice isn't the same as yours--or of tens of millions of other people.

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Going to your grave satisfied: Not everyone who has cable is a couch potato. Some of us do all kinds of things. I knit, make jewelry, play board games, read books (fiction and nonfiction), cook, and play make believe games with my toddler. Sometimes I want to watch a home improvement show or a cooking show. The ones I enjoy most are on cable.

Paul Farhi: Right. This is a radical idea, I know, but I'll put it out there: It's possible to actually watch TV and have a well-rounded life.

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Women's College Basketball: I'm from Connectiuct and this is the only game in the state. (The UConn men aren't doing so well this year.) I also think it doesn't hurt that ESPN is based in Bristol and the Lady Huskies rock. Come on 72!

Paul Farhi: I wonder if UConn's dominance of women's bball is a good or bad thing. I mean, they may break the NCAA record of consecutive wins (held by my UCLA Bruins, but no need to mention that) sometime next season. Does this suggest that the Huskies are the equal of ANY team in college basketball history? Or does it suggest that women's basketball has a bad competitive balance? I guess no one asked that question back in the early '70s, when Walton & Wooden & Co. were tearing it up, but I do wonder...

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Editors: Just want to clarify that Ghost Editor (moi) and Local Freelance Editor are not one and the same. I'd hate to be a nag!

Paul Farhi: Thank you. I know people (well, you and Local Freelance Editor) were wondering about that...

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would it get nearly as much airtime as the ratings justify or is it shown for largely political reasons (my guess is the second). doing the "Kanye" thing has entered our collective vocabulary and consciousness. : The real question is why do you care so much? If you don't like women's basketball, don't watch it. Simple. I'm picturing a bunch of TV execs sitting around at a meeting discussing how they HAVE to show women's bball since they show men's.

Paul Farhi: And yet it still appears on TV. Whatever happened to majority rules?!

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Alexandria, Va.: So do you think that Prius going out of control yesterday completely wiped out any value of the "thanks for sticking by us" ads that Toyota shelled out for?

Paul Farhi: That was EXACTLY my reaction this morning when I heard that news! There's a real credibility war going on here, pitting a few million dollars of advertising against the news. I think the news is winning, unfortunately for Toyota.

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census/tax: I'm sure the reason that census numbers are not pulled from tax data is the same as here in Canada - Tax returns are absolutely secret, between the IRS and the filers, and to let any other non-law enforcement without a warrant government agency access them would compromise them. Hence the duplication.And what is published is aggregated data, how many homes are in your zip code, average age, average salary, etc, but not who lives in a certain apartment and how much they make.

Paul Farhi: Excellent point. I think the same laws (about access to tax records) are in place here.

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Ex-Washingtonian: What's the latest update on Judge Pantsuit?

Paul Farhi: I have no idea what you mean...But in other legal news, this just in:"The TV news producer accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman for $2 million by exposing the talk show host's extramarital affairs will plead guilty today...."

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I can never seem to get it straight.: Effect is a noun, Affect is a verb. "It is unknown if the Census ads will affect return rates." "The Effect of the Census Ads was angry fiscal conservatives" Also, I am reminded from a question above of a classic article from The Onion - "Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own a Television."

Paul Farhi: Any chatter posting a relevant Onion article is golden here! And thanks for the reminder. I will promptly forget it in 3...2...1....

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Anti-Political Correctness Run Amok: Is someone really suggesting that cable networks are showing women's basketball in the name of political correctness? That's beyond absurd. Networks are in business for one reason- - to make money. If ratings for women's basketball were so low as to be a money-loser, they wouldn't show it! I'm sorry, but ESPN doesn't have a political agenda.

Paul Farhi: I agree. And if ESPN did have a political agenda, Brett Favre would be president by now.

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Census: I received a letter in the mail yesterday from the Census Bureau to tell me to expect the census form in the mail. Really? It was necessary to send me a letter to tell me that I would be getting another letter a week later?

Paul Farhi: I don't understand that at all. Okay, fiscal conservatives, have at it!

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A Theory: I think the person who hates women's basketball being on TV and the person who hates the breast cancer ads are the same person.

Paul Farhi: Kind of an anti-women thing, eh?

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No cable: I don't have cable because I'm cheap. I live alone and a netflix subscription is easier to justify to myself than a big cable bill. However, I don't begrudge anyone else their cable subscription and I don't think I'm better than someone with cable. Those of us who don't have cable aren't all self-congratulatory jerks.

Paul Farhi: Unfortunately, the I-don't-watch-TV-and-can't-understand-those-who-do crowd have ruined it for the rest of you. But isn't that always the case? The jerks are winning. We must fight back!

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How do I know what's on cable if I don't have cable?: Get to see cable in hotel rooms when on the road on business. Not all that impressed.

Paul Farhi: I would suggest getting off the porn channels and watching the better shows.

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Cablevision-ABC: To clarify your opening comments, is the dispute solely for owned and operated stations (in this area, Channels 4 (NBC) and 5 (Fox), but not 7 (Albritton) and 9 (Gannett)? If so, could the outcome be a determining business factor in whether the networks keep (and expand) their O and O holdings vs. dumping them and getting out of that business?

Paul Farhi: up the Baltimore network affiliate (there may be some complicated FCC rules covering all this; I just don't know). But there have been instances in other markets of local station playing this game of chicken, yes.

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Olymic sports: I don't have cable and don't follow sports (much). But I read all the Olympic coverage, and read many comments from athletes and spectators alike saying that its hard to find information about the Olympic sports in off-years (when the Olympics aren't held). Think there's a market for a cable Olympic sports channel? All the figure skating, Nordic combined, and track running you could handle.

Paul Farhi: Yes, there's a market for it, but a very small one. NBC has such a channel now, called Universal Sports (it will televise the Boston Marathon next month, bless its heart!). And the USOC tried to start an all-Olympic sports channel, before that effort was scuttled. Fact is, people watch the Olympics because of the variety of sports and the once-every-four-years drama of it. They don't really care about all that much about those individual sports in the "off" years, though.

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Rocci Fisch: David Letterman Blackmailer to Plead Guilty

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Census ad: The only one I've seen was during the Super Bowl. Everyone at the Super Bowl party I attended agreed that the ad was much like the federal government: incomprehensible and overly complicated.

Paul Farhi: I thought it was incomprehensible in ways that the federal government ISN'T. It was trying too hard to be cute, and funny and creative and to address a problem in a new and different way. I mean no slight to hardworking and dedicated federal workers, but none of those things describes (or should) the federal government's approach.

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Census Ads: Get Oprah to do the "everyone fill out and return your form" spots gratis. She can afford the time and everyone listens to her! Or maybe someone from American Idol, since that show seems to get the majority of the viewing public's attention.

Paul Farhi: war-bond rallies during WW II, when celebrities pitched in because it was their patriotic duty. It's not terribly controversial and it's a message everyone needs to hear.

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No wonder the Tea Party is winning: Why are our tax dollars being wasted on Census TV ads, Paul? Or maybe more to the point: Why are our tax dollars being wasted on obtuse, confusing, unfunny, and stupid Census TV ads. For being a more low-tech (comparatively) campaign, the 2000 Census was much more effective in getting the word out; 10 years later, our population may have grown, but evidently the tech resources available to this project sure didn't.

Paul Farhi: Good questions. The Census folk do have some 'splainin' to do...

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The Airless Cubicle: Watching the broadcast networks and the cable companies argue is like watching that scene in Fantasia (1940) where the dinosaur and the stegosaurus fight to the death. Meanwhile, the little agile mammals -- say, Internet distribution and smaller production companies -- are waiting for the meteorite to fall. -- Networks collect content and package it. Cable has bandwidth. Both must change. Neither will as long as they can make money. By the time the model changes it will be too late for both of them.

Paul Farhi: Hey, Airless... No one changes in business if the can keep making money! And I'll regurgitate one of my favorite biz quotes, from Sir Howard Stringer (when he was running CBS, back in the 1990s): "People say the networks are dinosaurs. What they fail to say is that the dinosaurs walked the earth for hundreds of millions of years."

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A la Carte Cable Programming: I for one would be delighted to cut the cable, break out the rabbit ears, and bid Comcast goodbye if I could instead pay a fee directly to Turner Classic Movies every month. You can't find a lot of their stuff anywhere else.

Paul Farhi: TCM goes on my "must-buy" list, too.

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Fairfax, Va.: Are any details in in the Letterman story? How much time will the guy do? How significant is the case/verdict?

Paul Farhi: More is coming in. I just ripped and read the headline. Stay tuned to your Washingtonpost.com for details. Film at 11.

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Censo 2010: The best Census ads are on Spanish-language television. Cuentate, representa! They have more of a sense of urgency, because they're encouraging people to participate so that they're will be an accurate count of the Hispanic population. Plus, the people in the commercials are much better-looking.

Paul Farhi: Hahaha--I watched some Spanish-language TV over the weekend (just because, I guess) and was struck by how gorgeous (women and men) everyone was...And the Spanish-language Census ads are part of the bureau's outreach to all kinds of different communities. They're getting the message out in something like 28 languages.

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Census letters: Perhaps they were a sort of stimulus for the post office?

Paul Farhi: Ingenious! The economy has become a self-reinforcing stimulus feedback loop!

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Burke, Va.: "Tax returns are absolutely secret, between the IRS and the filers" And third-party software providers, whom you are forced to give your information to if you want to e-file. And whoever breaks into their computers and steals your personal information. But that's probably subject for a different chat.

Paul Farhi: Please don't remind me. I e-file via one of the big, brand-name third party software providers every year. I'm awaiting the inevitable identity theft any minute now...

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Census ads: Census ads wouldn't be necessary if their hadn't been a bunch of wing nuits out there encouraging their minions not to fill out the ballots....Oy ve...

Paul Farhi: Yes, that's kind of crazy. Because the Census is Big Brother? I'm not sure I understand the paranoia (but I never do. Until it's too late!)...

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I remember a bumper sticker: on the car of a family that lived near me when I was in college. It said "There is No TV in My House!" Whenever I saw their kids I felt a little sorry for them. I bet they snuck TV at their friend's house.

Paul Farhi: Or the more recent, semi-radical, New Age-y version: "Kill Your Television Set." I always thought "Yell at Your Television Set" or "Think As You Watch" might be a better slogan.

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I haven't seen the Census ads.: I don't know what you guys are talking about, but then again I've never owned or watched a TV in my entire life, so I've never seen a TV commercial. I win! I'm the only one here who has spent every second of every day on quality activities. Except for the hour I just spent on this chat. But now I'll go back to reading The Story of Civilization, which had better not mention TV or I'll stop reading it.

Paul Farhi: (I think you'll really enjoy reading about all that stuff in Mesopotamia, by the way. I know I did!)

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Paul Farhi: --Paul.


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