This feeling of disgust that’s almost at a tipping point comes on the heels of the latest hike in rates by Time Warner, our local cable supplier.
It’s not just the fact that the charges are being increased which irritates me so much. After all, higher prices are something Americans have come to expect whether they show up at the gas pump, grocery-checkout line or on utility bills.
I understand that as Time Warner must fork over more to supply programming from its suppliers such as ESPN, which enjoys a virtual monopoly in the televised sports industry, they must pass some of those expenses on to consumers. That is a common business practice.
What really irks cable television subscribers is that not only are we paying more, we are getting less for our money as well. It would be one thing to simply charge subscribers more for the same service, but what Time Warner seems to be doing is hiking prices while also diminishing the quality of its programming.
For example, C-SPAN2 recently was dropped from the system. C-SPAN2 is a great outlet for public-affairs programming and also focuses on books written on government, history and similar topics.
While some TV watchers might say good riddance to such a high-brow channel, I think it’s a shame viewers now have one less outlet that might actually broaden their intellectual horizons or help them become better-informed citizens.
Yet Time Warner’s cuts also could affect mainstream broadcast content as well. There have been announcements that Channel 48, a Triad TV station, is being dropped from the local cable system at the end of this month. I rely on Channel 48 for many entertainment shows, including late-night reruns of “The Office.”
This trend isn’t new. It’s been occurring over the years, paralleling a scenario of constant price increases.
The cable package I receive once included the Fox Movie Channel, Encore Westerns and others that I found enjoyable, but which gradually fell by the wayside. Only one bona fide movie selection remains, Turner Classic Movies.
Channels that I now receive basically are a collection of commercial-laden garbage and cheap filler.
This brings me to a solution I believe Time Warner should explore before I and other disgruntled viewers finally pull the plug and go satellite. In making this suggestion, I’m trying to light a candle rather than simply curse the darkness.
Why not let each subscriber personalize their cable package, allowing it to be tailored to every individual’s or family’s wishes? We can have customized computers and cell phones and pizzas, so why not cable TV? It seems that technology is allowing people more control over their lives in virtually every area besides television.
Time Warner could simply give each customer a list of 200 channel choices and let them shop for the 25 or 30 they want. In my case, I would concentrate on sports, movie and educational stations, and drop the shopping networks, religious stations, Spanish-speaking channels and others I care nothing about. Even though only 30 channels would result, they’d be solid choices with no filler.
Those who prefer other types of programming could throw out what they didn’t want.
My whole point is if we’re to be gouged over and over on prices, at least give us a choice of what we’re watching, rather than forcing us to accept garbage and pay more for that “content.”
Another factor surrounds an economic reality in today’s business world. Under the present climate, customer service is more important than ever — something Time Warner officials don’t appear to understand. Even if they do understand it, they don’t seem to care.
Some people simply can’t afford more expensive entertainment, such as movies, and rely on television to supply their needs these days.
But if Time Warner stays its present course, many — including me — are going to find a way to do without it, too.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at email@example.com or 719-1924.