Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hearings aren't the same as solutions

As I've mentioned before, I'm a life-long Chargers fan. Living in San Diego was great for me since it of course gave me the chance to see my Chargers every Sunday. Now that we are in Houston, we need a different strategy. While I'm not opposed to having to go to a sports bar every Sunday, the cost does add up rather quickly.

Enter DirectTV's Sunday Ticket. For those of you who live under a rock, the Sunday Ticket is an exclusive contract the NFL has with DirecTV that allows DirecTV to show every NFL game to subscribers. It's also a violation of the NFL's antitrust agreement.

When the NFL began broadcasting games on television, they were granted an antitrust exemption by Congress as long as they guaranteed equal access to all broadcasts. Since the games were broadcast on over-the-air channels, or cable networks such as ESPN that are available through all cable and satellite systems, they were always in compliance. Their deal with DirecTV, however, flies in the face of this agreement. In order to obtain this package, one must subscribe to DirecTV. Don't want DirecTV? Too bad. Can't get DirecTV due to technical problems? Too bad.

Last year, Congress decided to start holding hearings about this arrangement. Arlen Specter and others promised to introduce legislation to open this package up to the masses. It seemed like finally Congress was going to actually do something. Alas, this same congress that can't balance a budget, pass legislation to reform our immigration policies, fix our health care system,
or solve the pending Social Security crisis, can't even handle something as simple as requiring the NFL to offer the same thing to cable companies they do to DirecTV.

Harry Reid was recently quoted as saying, "We have had 100 hearings on Iraq and we're going to have 100 more, and we're proud of it." That easily has to go down as one of my favorite quotes of all time. Granted, he was talking about Iraq, but I still think it does a great job of summing up the state of politics in the US.

The great thing about holding a hearing is that it will get you on television looking like you're doing something. "Wow - look at the tough questions that Senator is asking him." It plays well to the masses and to the media. It makes you look like you're standing up for your beliefs. Of course, it's not actually solving a problem. As far as I can tell, the one goal a hearing best serves is helping Senators and Representatives get re-elected.

After holding numerous hearing last year the issue has, like many others, fallen off the radar. Did any legislation work its way through Congress? Not that I can tell. But they had hearings - and that's the important part, right?

Meanwhile we're be stuck having to subscribe to DirecTV, and wondering, "If this Congress can't solve the small problems, how do we expect them to solve the big ones?"

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