Posted by: patenttranslator | August 25, 2014

A Brand New Paywall Was Just Erected to Prevent Viewers from Seeing and Hearing America on Internet


I started watching C-Span, an American cable and satellite television network created as a public service in 1979 mostly through the efforts of Brian Lamb, about 13 years after we moved to Virginia from California. The call-in show starts every day at 7 AM Eastern time, which was too early for me when I lived in California.

C-Span is billed as “a public service by the TV cable companies”, but there is an interesting twist here: the cable companies themselves do not finance the programming because a special tax (6 cents per subscriber) is collected from all cable subscribers, whether they watch C-Span or not. That is why, thankfully, there are no commercials on C-Span. Based on my informal research, very few people watch it here where I live. In fact, not a single person among the people I asked was watching it on a regular basis and most had only a vague idea about it, or did not know anything about it.

I start most mornings by watching the call-in show at 7 AM and if the topic being discussed is of interest to me, I listen to callers until 7:45 AM, at which time I generally take my pit bull Lucy for a walk.

She is already waiting for me downstairs by the door, patiently as only dogs can, wondering when the stupid show will finally end.

Since there is not much real news on the alphabet news networks on US TV anymore, I stopped watching the infotainment channels more than a decade ago. Occasionally I may still turn on CNN when there is an earthquake in Japan or California, but that’s about it. I know what they will be saying 24/7 on each of these channels: MSNBC: Obama and Democrats gooooood, Republicans baaaad; Fox: Republicans gooood, Obama and Democrats baaaad.

C-Span is a little bit different because as it is not controlled either by the Democrats or the Republicans, anybody can call in and start talking, for a couple of minutes, before they cut you off.

Or so I thought. But recent changes in C-Span policy lead me to believe that C-Span is in fact controlled by the same people who control information about everything, only in this case, they do it in a less obvious manner.

I often used to put the talk show on my iPad because I’m a multitasking kind of guy: I like to do laundry, check e-mail as I walk from one room to another, or go downstairs to the kitchen to make coffee while listening to a guy in Louisiana bitching about his miserable hourly rate.

Last week, when I tried to put the talk show on iPad again, I was stopped by an ominous screen that ordered me to identify my local TV station carrying the C-Span programming if I want to continue watching. C-Span’s CEOs in their wisdom determined that the ostentatiously non-profit organization will no longer allow viewers on Internet to watch live programming unless they can prove that they paid their six pennies unto Cesar, by which I mean a for-profit cable company.

I decided not to identify myself as a paying viewer, although it means that I am no longer able to view C-Span on Internet, only on my TV. I have about 200 channels in my cable package, but like most people, I can stand to watch only about half a dozen of them, if I don’t count the movie channels where they seem to be showing the same movies over and over again. I probably watch two C-Span channels more than anything else on my TV: C-Span 1 for the call-in shows, and C-Span 2 on Saturdays and Sundays for their Book TV programming in which various American authors are introducing themselves and talking about books.

My local cable company makes me pay for all kind of disgusting garbage on my TV. There are many religious channels on TV here in Virginia, at least a dozen of them are blasting religious propaganda on Sunday, where slick, greedy shysters are making out like the bandits that they are while selling a solid and very profitable product called Jesus to intellectually challenged individuals. I have no choice but to pay for those channels if I want to be able to see any TV programming at all.

There are 3 or 4 Pentagon channels in the lineup of my TV channels where our hungry but well fed war machine is celebrating our awesome military and the cool weapons that we have. I have to pay for those too if I want to be able to see any TV programming at all.

Most of those channels that I have to pay for, although I never watch most of them, are also filled with tons of advertising. I think that the ratio on most TV channels is about 40% of advertising to 60% of programming, although it often seems that it is the other way round. A rare escape from mind-numbing advertising are the two German channels that I have and one French channel. But for those I have to pay extra, 15 dollars a month for German and 10 dollars a month for French TV.

I actually felt good that the 6 pennies that I am paying every month for C-Span programs brought real, raw information, information that is unfiltered and unthrottled by omnipresent corporate propaganda, to people who could watch it on Internet anywhere in the world, in Austin, Texas, as well as in Austria, Africa, or Australia.

So, that is no longer true, as C-Span cut off access on Internet for people who do not pay them 6 pennies a month, whether they have an opportunity to do so or not.

In 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, there were many programs on US TV and radio stations in which various experts who know everything about nothing and nothing about everything were beating the war drum to earn their very generous salaries, some organization, I forgot which one, counted the number of pro-war and anti-war programs. According to Wikipedia and other sources, the ratio of pro-war to against-war programs was 16 : 1, although I remember that I also heard the number 297 : 6, which would be closer to 50 : 1.

In any case, I do remember that 11 years ago the entire “liberal media”, including newspapers and radio and TV stations, was turned by people who control everything into a chorus of obedient war cheerleaders. My neighbor, a lieutenant in US army, was at that time helping me install a garage door opener; well, it was more like he was installing it and I was holding the ladder. He thought that I was crazy when I told him that if we attack that country, we would not be welcome as liberators and that the result of such an invasion would be unpredictable and probably horrible. That’s what long-term exposure to Pentagon channels will do to you.

Voices warning against a new war were almost completely silenced in the official media back then. You could only hear them on calling shows on C-Span because the C-Span management was unable to shut off people who called in.

With the new paywall, they now have at their disposal a valuable tool for managing unmanageable callers who often have a tendency to stray from the official party line, as people who have not paid their 6 pennies to C-Span will simply not be allowed to participate in the debate.

Another fact that I realized based on the decision of C-Span management was that one cannot take for granted access to programs that are for the moment available on the Internet because any of these programs can be killed  by people who control everything it they decide to simply kill it with a convenient Internet kill switch.


  1. Sickened by the drumbeat for war — and worn out from throwing things at Aaron Brown on the TV set — we went cable-free in 2003, and have never regretted it. We watch Netflix movies (or go out to a movie theater — what a concept!), and get our news from the Internet, via online subscriptions to two major dailies and two magazines. Funnily enough, when video content is shown on a news site and there is also a transcript available, I find that I nearly always prefer to read the transcript. It’s so much better to skip through the blather and the lame jokes and get right to the heart of what the interviewee is there to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My sons (23 + 25) did what you did and they do not have cable TV either. Except that they don’t read newspapers, not even online – and they are not stupid, as one of them is working on his PhD.

    I think that the cable industry is going to have a big problem 10 or 20 years from now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: