McAdams On: More Fun With Numbers
5/12/2011 4:42:05 PM
BEMUSED, CALIF.: One
learns very early in journalism school (yes, there were once such things) that numbers
are imperative to a story. Prices give perspective. For example, had a certain mayor
of Los Angeles limited his graft to a $12 ticket for “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,”
rather than $21,000 for the Oscars . . . well, you do the math.
Aha! But you won’t, will you? Because there would be no such thing as journalism
school if we were all a little better at math. Nooo. We would be designing IC schematics
for devices that facilitate complete social isolation in return for astounding sums
of money. (Another rule of journalism is to illustrate the significance of an amount.
E.g., an “astounding” sum of money is a lot more than you make now.)
Journalists are not particularly known for their prowess with numbers. Once upon
a time, they were paired with creatures known as “copy editors.” Copy editors died
out en masse during the Great Media Consolidation of the ’90s. The few that remain
are mostly at small-town newspapers, attempting to avoid the stylistic, factual,
grammatical and spelling horror that is the Internet.
Neither is Washington, D.C. a hotbed of people who are sticklers for accurate details,
i.e., copy editors. It is a hotbed of attorneys. Attorneys are people who could
afford to go on to law school. Law schools are places where the mathematically disinclined
go to make astounding sums of money with the crafty use of
just words!!! (If you are in journalism school right now, please write
that down where you will not forget it.)
Now, attorneys believe they are smarter than you. They may not be, but that doesn’t
matter. Your Nobel Prize in physics is meaningless in the perceptual world of attorneys,
because they are the original practitioners of “The Secret.” They visualize their
smartness and so they are.
know, for example, that if they toss numbers around like confetti, you are not going
to pick up a pencil.
And so it is with our friends in Washington who are agitating, nay, evangelizing--nay,
an even more emphatic word--for the reassignment of TV broadcast spectrum for broadband.
The folks at the Consumer Electronics Association, whose members stand to make a
quadrillion dollars from the reassignment, launched a “Spectrum Crunch Clock” this
week “to help Americans visualize the economic costs of delay in spectrum reform.”
Note: A quadrillion is a lot. “Visualization”
denotes attorneys applying “The Secret.”)
The “clock” is actually a large red-letter graphic depicting an ever-increasing
sum of money. This sum is allegedly how much money is being wasted because “intense
lobbying by broadcast television stations has stalled progress on this vital program.”
Except for broadcasters haven’t stalled squat. The process is pretty much in line
put forth by the Federal Communications Commission in April of 2010.
did manage to get an extra
seven whole days to comment on the spectrum reassignment docket, because the original
period closed the Monday after the National Association of Broadcasters Show in
Las Vegas. If seven days is all they got as a result of “intense lobbying,” someone’s
not spending enough on cigars.
But again, we are working with attorney math, and not copy-editor math, which is
how the CEA determined that this delay is costing the country $14,444 a minute.
Because if you take the $33 billion number made up by other attorneys to express
the value of the sought-after broadcast spectrum, and you divide it with pie, carry
the fore and multiply it all by magic ponies, you get $14,444 a minute. But you
don’t know, do you?
Neither does the CEA, dog bless ‘em. Because the Spectrum Crunch Clock read
Today, it says $8.4 billion
and change, or roughly the payroll of 2,208 broadcast TV stations and networks according
to the 2007
Economic Census, which also indicates nearly $36 billion in receipts for the
survey period. Using the institutionally approved mathematics of Washington, D.C.,
that means stripping spectrum away from broadcasters will cost the country $3 billion.
Stayed tuned to McAdams On for more fun with numbers. Because I’m sure there will