Millions of Americans get their news from television, and TV news operations are among the most influential in the United States.
But millions of viewers across the country are being denied access to CBS news -- and arguably the most-factual and -impartial reporting in the country -- because of dispute over money between two corporations.
This is a travesty and an absurdity at the same time.
The fact that it is unfolding in full view of everyone is reason for everybody to sit up and notice -- and understand the implications.
Today, it is one giant cable company and one giant news operation; tomorrow, it could be many companies and most news operations.
The fact that there are other ways to get news is beside the point and may not necessarily be the case in the future, as media conglomerates are being permitted to combine into media megaconglomerates at an alarming rate.
Do people really want big corporations controlling not only their economy but also the information they receive?
That is not a good thing for the future of freedom of the press or for democracy.
Yet that is what is really at stake here.
Sure, the corporations involved portray the dispute as a simple disagreement over money -- and it's true, they cannot agree on how much Time Warner should pay to carry CBS programming -- but it is far from simple in what it represents.
The network, which offers full days of programming on a number of channels, tried to strike back at Time Warner by suspending customer access to videos for Time Warner customers in affected markets -- which include New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.
Further restrictions on broadcasting freedom is a corporate response to an issue that goes far beyond money -- and should raise concerns for all about the future of corporation-dominated economies in the United States and all over the world.
CBS and Time Warner Cable both say they offered to extend their current contract before the customer cutoff, according to the Reuters international news service, but both companies obviously had higher priorities than keeping the news flowing.
In fact, blackout threats have become more common in a business almost completely dominated by cable operators, Reuters said.
Last summer, 20 million DirecTV's 20 million customers were blacked out from seeing more than 20 Viacom's cable networks, including Nickelodeon and MTV, for 10 days in a similar dispute between the two companies, Reuters said.
Fox was taken off the screens of more than 3 million Cablevision customers for 15 days in 2010 in a similar dispute, Reuters said.
Cablevision said the 15-day blackout, which cost subscribers the ability to watch most of the World Series, for the loss of as many as 35,000 customers, Reuters said.
But if corporate television cannot figure out on their own to keep independent news broadcasts flowing to the people who get news from TV, they should be compelled to do so as a condition of operating.
That is how governments can ensure First Amendment freedoms in the corporate era not only in broadcasting but in any and all industries.
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