McAdams On: PBS, KCET, Retrans and All That Jazz
11/19/2010 4:34:09 PM
I came across a great episode of “Austin City
Limits” last night on the local PBS affiliate quite by accident. It was quite
by accident because I cannot for the life of me figure out the PBS schedule. I
haven’t been able to since John Lawson cut that “landmark” multicast carriage
deal for Association of Public Television Station members. Afterward, PBS
stations across the country started cranking out multiple program streams. That
Uncool was that they couldn’t carry the same thing at the same time. There were
356 PBS affiliates for 210 TV markets. Robert Sachs was chief of the cable
lobby at the time. No way he was going to tell Brian Roberts that Comcast would
have to carry two or three simultaneous telecasts of “Antiques Roadshow,” no
matter how much Kevin Bacon loved it.
All PBS member stations carry some form of main PBS programming feed, often
interspersed with locally produced shows. Most carry one or more of the digital
subchannels produced by WNET-TV in New York--World, Kids, Create and/or V-me,
which I dearly wish were subtitled. The larger affiliates also have local
subchannels often intermixed with PBS programming.
So “Austin City Limits” is on KCET Orange Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., and
Tuesdays and Thursdays at
8 p.m., and on
KCET Desert Cities all of those days at 8 p.m., and on KLCS’s main feed
Saturdays at 11 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. and possibly sometime on KOCE, but I
can’t find it.
And how is it that I cannot figure out when to watch “Austin City Limits” with
10 time slots a week? Find the latest episode, I bid you. Which ones have I
missed? Why must I, as a viewer like you and Kevin Bacon, have to conduct full
minutes of Internet research to find the debut episodes of “Austin City
Limits?” Isn’t TV a passive medium, for heaven’s sake? It’s supposed to dumb me
down, not make me do research online, which will further erode my memory. It’s
critical thinking skills I’m trying to destroy. The degradation of my memory is
already sufficient, thank you very much.
Lawson’s multicast must-carry deal was a
de maître at the time. Unless you were the commercial broadcast industry
angling for a multicast must-carry law from regulators. Then, well, it was a
pain in that which follows always. The Federal Communications Commission
declined to require digital multicast must-carry two months after John’s deal
Now cut to five years later. Instead of multicast must-carry, broadcasters have
retransmission consent by which they’re getting
paid for carriage on cable and satellite systems. Who knew, right?
If they’d have won multicast must-carry, would they be pressing so hard on
retrans and ’splaining market forces to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)? Things might
look a little different on that front, but urgent needs evolve quickly in the
fog factory that is Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, KCET is fixing to drop PBS altogether because the affiliation got
too expensive. So now we’ll have Heull Howser and David Foster all the time.
Maybe “David Foster & Friends With Guest Star Huell Howser.” David and
Huell are Cali types who may not ring a bell with everyone. Both are preferable
to “America’s Got Talent,” but neither are Rosanne Cash performing songs from
her dad’s 100 essentials list on “Austin City Limits.”
The one thing that the broadcast TV industry does seem to have down pat is
circumventing Murphy’s Law before it’s allowed to take its course.