Friday, April 12, 2013

First the beer summit and now this.

The Comcast/(insert television provider here) debate over the pricing for airing their little sports channel is still dragging on.  You know this because of several "here's the facts" commercials Comcast has decided to constantly bombard you with.  Never mind that the commercials are neither factual or all that helpful. The idea that people are willing to pay more to watch the Rockets, Astros & Dynamo is proving to be laughable.

Enter Houston Mayor Annise Parker. She who sees a campaign opportunity and, having decided that all of Houston's serious problems are now resolved, has decided that dedicating resources to ensure 60% of the city has the option to tune out the Rockets, Astros and Dynamo is priority one. Herein lies the disconnect between elected officials and the general public, and I'm not just singling out Annise Parker here.

No doubt, for a fraction of Houstonians, the opportunity to watch the Rockets lose to a two or three seed in round one of the NBA Playoffs is high up on the priority list. Watching the Astros set new records for futility is important to an even smaller fraction, and watching Minor League Soccer appeals to even fewer.  Are there enough votes here to push Parker over the top should a run-off with Benjamin Hall III become a reality?  Possibly, although it seems that Hall's apparent lack of respect for government already has many of a Statist lean against him and given that many in Houston often cast a vote for Mayor on ground flimsier than the Astros starting line-up, I'm not even sure Parker will need this to propel her to victory.

Of course, there is the concern that pushing this deal through might backfire.  Not only could Parker be viewed as the Mayor who foisted the futility of the Astros to a wider audience, if cable rates were to increase because of this people might get mad as well.  You might think this is in jest but, when you consider the biggest Google search on election day 2012 was "who's running for President in 2012?", no-one ever came up short underestimating the American low-information voter.

The reality is we live in a city where bike-sharing is propped up as a transportation plan by elected leaders, instead of as a form of recreation as it should be, where a taxpayer-subsidized downtown convention center hotel is currently being rubber-stamped despite low occupancy rates in the area.  Voters within the Houston city limits consistently re-elect Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee despite the fact that she doesn't have anything closely resembling common sense.  State Sen. John Whitmire is running around Austin convinced some far-right prison gang is out to get him (the threat was later determined to be a scam) and The Al Green/Boris Miles campaigns were proof of case that anyone who can fog a mirror has a chance of being elected.  Given this voting pool Parker has a very good chance of positioning herself in campaign ads as the "Mayor who gave Houstonians back their sports teams" and that could be just enough for her to eek out the win.

All of this sound and fury while it has gone unmentioned that this is a private business deal in which the government probably shouldn't be involved at all.  I realize that there is a strong public aspect to television in the form of regulation, but people have no inherent "right" to watch their local sports teams lose.  Nor do I see any benefit of having this summit in the first place.  It's probable that all of the major players will be there, and there will be many a photo op with Mayor Parker (which will also be used in campaign literature) but in terms of actual results I just don't it, unless CSN is willing to lower their price.  This is unlikely as well because, "we're working day and night for you" rhetoric to the contrary, Comcast is just as concerned about the bottom line as all of the other companies involved.  A quick meeting with Ma Parker and team is not going to change that.

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