A paid web service that allows you to watch television online, Virtual Digital Cable (VDC) is complaining to the FCC that cable companies like Time Warner are unfairly refusing to allow them to purchase the rights for popular cable channels.
Right now, VDC’s lineup of content includes stuff like ShoppingNBC, fashiontv and something called (I’m not kidding) “The Soundtrack Channel.” Not exactly the kind of thing your average couch potato is going to throw away his set-top box for. But cable players, so far, are resisting VDC’s overtures.
VDC’s complaint is based upon federal regulations that allow operators of cable and satellite networks to buy programming owned by their competitors. While some observers think the complaint has some merit, others think the FCC won’t be impressed. As Jeffrey Sheldon, a telecom wonk with the D.C. law firm McDermott Will & Emery told the Chicago Tribune:
“It’s cute, but I don’t think anybody is going to take this terribly seriously. If they did, the FCC would collapse. Everybody could claim they were a cable system.”
Still, resisting VDC’s overtures is the kind of robber-baron behavior that I’ve come to expect from cable providers after years of living in monopoly markets ruled like fiefdoms by Viacom, Time Warner and Comcast. With behavior like this, who can blame network neutrality advocates and corporate media consolidation conspiracy theorists for getting their panties in a bunch? Not to mention the millions (like myself) who can point to this behavior as a rationalization for pirating content.
It’s enough to make someone put together their own channel of web programming. That’s right, cable cartels, I’m flipping the bird in your direction.