PBS Commercialization: The Comcast, Kidvid and Sprout connection

Next month, PBS’s Sprout is celebrating its one-year launch with a self-proclaimed birthday bash. Sprout is a channel aimed at pre-schoolers. It has advertising and is a commercial venture. PBS was lured into the deal in part by Comcast, which was seeking cheap-to-buy and already in the can “family-friendly” content for its cable TV systems (including its video on demand service). By agreeing to this deal, PBS ultimately embraced a more commercialized, monopoly-media dependent model for its future. Instead of protecting children from an advertising culture, PBS helped to enhance it. (PBS wasn’t alone in wanting such a deal. Some of its children’s TV producers, who actually control the rights to programming, wanted an outlet beyond the limits of PBS broadcasting. )

The September Sprout “anniversary” (as they are touting it) should be accompanied by some serious reflection at PBS headquarters, its stations, and producers like Sesame Workshop. They are helping lead PBS further down the wrong path during this critical time of transition in the digital video era.

PBS and Stealth Interactive Advertising: Part II

We just learned that early this year, PBS began running “sponsored links” on some of its webpages, such as on “arts and drama.” When you go to these pages, there are ads promoting such things as a “Are You Normal” quiz from Chatterbeam.com. That site tries to capture personal information, including your email. Even a pop-up ad shows up. One major problem is that PBS fails to disclose that a cookie may be placed on your computer, and that other information may be shared with third-parties. In other words, PBS is helping place our privacy at risk. It is certainly aiding commercial data collection. [Read the privacy policy at the bottom of the Chatterbox page.]
This is another example of how out-of-touch PBS senior management are with their non-commercial mandate. They shouldn’t be involved in a ad-revenue sharing deal with Google. They certainly shouldn’t be acting as a digital go-between with commercial sites engaged in data collection. PBS.org’s flimsy “what’s this” disclosure link under the ads is totally inadequate.

PBS needs to maintain a coherent and ethical non-commercial approach to digital communications. Commercial exploitation on PBS sites will only do damage to the service in the long run.

Comcast and Broadband: “It’s our Platform”

As the Congressional battle to secure network neutrality nears, with a possible Senate vote next month, it’s important to place a spotlight on the broadband domination plans of both the cable and telephone industries. We know that companies such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner fear the Internet. They don’t wish to see an open, non-discriminatory platform compete with them in the delivery of IP-based communications (voice, video, etc.). As a Alacatel white paper explained, “service providers [meaning cable/phone co’s] are really competing with the Internet as a business model, which is even more formidable than just competing with a few innovative service aggregators such as Google, Yahoo and Skype.” [Alcatel is helping both AT&T and Verizon build its networks].

Comcast, the largest and most powerful cable T.V. company, plans to use its clout to leverage greater control over the delivery of IP video. It has recently acquired “thePlatform,” a major web publishing technology company. Through thePlatform, Comcast will be able to ensure that it can deliver its own and “approved” broadband content more efficiently, including better positioning, pricing, and the capture of critical personal subscriber/user information (so they can more effectively market to us vs. competitors and other providers). Comcast plans to use this technology as part of its plans to make its web portal a national broadband video [rich media] service—one that can better compete with Google, Yahoo!, and other independent providers.

Comcast also plans to deploy an advanced video/broadband integrated set-top box that will serve as a “high-end” home gateway, capable of delivering a full range of multimedia into the home (including a powerful personal video recorder). They call it “RNG,”—standing for real next-generation. Comcast’s other recent acquisitions, including interactive TV software developer Liberate [now called Double C Technologies, a joint venture with Cox], will also be part of its platform.

It doesn’t take a mind reader to understand why Comcast, its cable brethren, and giant phone companies lobbied the FCC to sweep away the Internet’s non-discriminatory safeguards. By removing the key policy impediment to their plans for broadband dominance (or relevance!), they can deploy the range of technological/economic controls that will shape our broadband future.

Source: “New Cable Strategies Spawn Efforts By Vendors to Push Set-Top Envelope.” ScreenPlays, August 2006.

PBS to Run Commercials Online, including at PBS Kids site. Doesn’t it know there soon won’t be a real difference between the Web and TV?

PBS intends to run online advertising this fall at its PBS.org website. The so-called non-commercial network says it seeks to benefit from the “explosive growth and rising demand” of interactive advertising. In an example of how out of touch PBS executives are with its non-commercial mandate, a PBS VP explained that the move is a response to the demand of the market. He said that such ads would generate “positive financial results” for the network, helping it fulfill its “mission-based activities.” They claim there will be “guidelines” helping determine what ads can run. But an ad’s an ad. Incredibly, PBS will also seeks advertising for its kids website homepages—PBSkids.org and PBSkids Go!

PBS should not be seeking commercial opportunities in the broadband market. Instead, it should be pioneering new forms of non-commercial content readily available throughout our ubiquitous digital system. PBS must recognize by now that online and TV (as well as mobile) are merging. The distinction about whether content is delivered via any specific platform no longer matters. Whether received via TV, cellphone, or PC, public broadcasting content should be fully non-commercial. PBS, and its stations, (and NPR) should not attempt to replicate what commercial media companies are doing online and with mobile networks. It will be a U.S. media universe saturated with advertising. If PBS is to remain distinctive at all—it has to strictly adhere to non-commercial formats in all forms of distribution. Certainly, new PBS president Paula Kerger can do better than this. PBS officials think they have a loophole because they aren’t prohibited from running ads online (they are restricted in terms of commercials and their TV licenses). Congress must step in to bar PBS from running any ads—in any medium.

[source: “PBS to resume Online Ads to Exploit Market Demand.” Dinesh Kumar. Communications Daily. Aug. 24, 2006. Subscription only].

PS: In response to those who say that PBS needs money, so hence it must run online ads. In my view, only by creating meaningful interactive non-commercial formats can PBS hope to raise money from viewers/users. Its future is with the audience increasingly using social media web sites. It has to provide those users with distinctive content. A fully non-commercial service is likely to be appreciated with viewer support. Foundations might like it too.

PPS: Read the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childrhood’s alert on PBS ads here.

And Commercial Alert’s here.

PPPS!: See a good overview article on PBS’s deal with Google’s Adsense service. The piece includes an interview with PBS’s VP for Interactive and Education. It’s at paidcontent.org and called “PBS.org Starts Accepting Contextual Ads From Google; More Coming.” See another piece about the PBS station in Cincinnati that has “re-launched its web presence as an ad-supported on-demand video site.”

Hey, Big Spender: Telco’s and Cable Buy Favor on the Hill

The National Journal’s excellent David Hatch has kept his journalistic eye on all the telecom/cable lobbying money flowing in to Congress. Millions are being spent to keep lawmakers favorably disposed against net neutrality and other broadband safeguards. The majority of AT&T’s giving (67%) has gone to the GOP. Other big spenders include Comcast, BellSouth, Verizon and Time Warner (the latter should spend less on lobbying and more on privacy. But, of course, they really don’t want to).

Read David’s article. See how Speaker Hastert, House Commerce chair Joe Barton and many others have done well for themselves. And then follow the money when the voting on network neutrality comes this fall.

abendlich rauscht mp3 wald der schonwald mp3 abendlich rauscht schon derrauscht wald mp3 schon abendlich dercupid 112 mp3112 cupid mp3cupid 112 mp3112 cupid mp3fair advance wav mp3 australia Map

Telco CEOs to the Internet: We Own You and You Will Never Be Free

Top execs from Verizon, Qwest, and the USTA lobbying machine attacked the concept of network neutrality yesterday. They spoke at the annual lobbyist love-fest run by the Progress and Freedom Foundation. The exec remarks make clear that the leadership of the U.S. telephone industry is hazardous to the Internet’s health. For example, Verizon’s Tom Tauke dismissed concerns about what will happen to our democratic rights now that neutrality is lost. For the former Congressman turned top lobbyist, there are only consumer interests. “…I believe,” he said, “there is now an emerging consensus” that’s it’s all about consumers, reported Communications Daily [Aug. 23, 2006. Subscription only]. He said that calls for “non-discrimination” were coming from advocates of “old rules” (he meant the policies that made the Internet an open forum]. Meanwhile, the chief of the United States Telecom Association–Walter McCormick–said that his members “would oppose any bill with strong net neutrality language.” Qwest CEO Richard Notebaert chimed in that there was “no need for Congress to act where there’s no problem…”

Bolstering the industry’s jeremiad was the chief staffer for House Commerce chair Joe Barton. Howard Waltzman predicted, “there would not be a bill sent to the president that included [non-discriminatory net neutrality requirements] because the House would not agree to it.” Waltzman, the majority chief counsel, also proclaimed that “the Snowe-Dorgan amendment” requiring net neutrality would fail in the Senate.

These are the people—along with their bosses—who are placing the business plans of a few special interests before everyone else now online. Web 2.0 will be shaped to fit their image of broadband unless they are stopped.

alaska estate loan realloan advance cash $1000loans 100 mortgage commericalloans 103homebuyer loans 1st time000 loan 4099 auto loanloan adjustable rate Map

Bush FTC Weights-in Against Congressional Net Neutrality Safeguards

The Bush Administration has come to the aid of GOP Hill leaders who are desperately working to derail network neutrality legislation. Federal Trade Commission Chair Deborah Majoras has just announced plans for her agency to explore the network neutrality issue. The message from the Bush White House via Ms. Majoras is clear: Congress shouldn’t be concerned about the need to restore the Internet’s neutrality, now that the so-called consumer watchdog FTC is on the case.

In a speech delivered at the annual tony confab of the Progress and Freedom Foundation (a Newt Gingrich co-founded group funded by industry that opposes net neutrality rules), Majoras questioned whether any Internet freedom rules were needed at all. The market, she noted, can protect us. But she also announced plans for her agency to convene an Internet “Task Force” to “evaluate Net Neutrality proposals in detail.” Her discussion of the issue ignored, of course, how the phone and cable giants purposefully lobbied to have the Bush FCC kill the U.S. Internet’s non-discriminatory governing principles in the first place (with cable in 2002 and with the phone network in 2005).

Majoras was a controversial appointment herself. The government’s chief regulator for competition in the oil and gas industry was formerly a top corporate lawyer for Chevron-Texaco (as well as for Halliburton). Just as she has helped big oil, she is now aiding big phone and telecom interests. The move by Ms. Majoras is designed to help Senator Ted “Tube” Stevens sway enough Senators so he can swiftly have the Senate pass his major telecom bill–minus any real network neutrality safeguards. Ironically, it was Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D) who led the effort to oppose the Majoras confirmation in 2004. Wyden was concerned (rightly, it turns out), that a Chevron-lawyer-led FTC would do little to challenge gasoline price hikes. Now Wyden is also leading the effort against permitting the Stevens bill to come to a vote if it is lacking net neutral rules.

Majoras plans to hold a public net neutrality related hearing as part of its “Consumer Protection in the Next Tech-ade” event on November 6-8. (Seriously, they call it that. They mean next decade!). Advocates should tell the FTC at that time it shouldn’t be flacking for a Bell-Big cable Net takeover. Ms. Majoras should also hear from everyone as well: 202-326-2492.

Why the Phone and Cable Industries Fear the Net

Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and others oppose network neutrality because they fear competition: from the Internet. In this piece I wrote for The Nation magazine, online, I discuss what their plans are for our broadband futures. Read it and fight (on) for a more democratic, diverse, and even perhaps competitive digital media system.

"Games” Broadband Monopolists Play: Verizon’s “optimized” Game Network

Anti-Internet freedom giant Verizon announced that it will be using its FIOS network to sell and deliver online ad-supported gaming, according to Online Media Daily [Aug. 11, 2006]. “The service is optimized for the Verizon fiber-optic broadband network, and runs fastest when players have subscribed with Verizon,” [my italics] it was reported. Verizon’s PlayLinc gaming service will feature ads for the phone giant’s “fiber-optic network, mobile phones and phone service…and on the program itself.”

Oh, what a tangled web we will have, as the anti-net neutrality monopolists use their new discriminatory powers to shape the Internet to their liking.

What Google Told the SEC and Investors About Threat to Net

“Our business depends on continued and unimpeded access to the Internet by us and our users. Internet access providers may be able to block, degrade, or charge for access to certain of our products and services, which could lead to additional expenses and the loss of users and advertisers.

The provision of our products and services depends on the ability of our users to access the Internet, and certain of our products require significant bandwidth to work effectively. Currently, this access is provided by companies that have increasing market power in the broadband and Internet access marketplace, including incumbent telephone companies, cable companies and mobile communications companies. Some of these providers have stated that they may take measures that could degrade, disrupt, or increase the cost of user access to certain of our products by restricting or prohibiting the use of their infrastructure to support or facilitate our offerings, or by charging increased fees to us or our users to provide our offerings. These activities may be permitted in the U.S. after recent regulatory changes, including recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Communications Commission and under legislation being considered by the U.S. Congress. While interference with access to our popular products appears unlikely, such carrier interference with our online products or services could result in a loss of existing users and advertisers, increased costs, and could impair our ability to attract new users and advertisers, thereby harming our revenue and growth.”

From 10 Q. Filed on 8/9/2006