Most days I am happy that television grew beyond the three networks of my youth. It’s not that I have anything against those networks, which are home to some of my favorite shows: “Elementary” on CBS, “Revolution” on NBC and “Castle” on ABC. But thanks to the explosion of TV networks, I can watch “Justified” on FX, “Suits” on USA, “Breaking Bad” on AMC and “Falling Skies” on TNT.
But not everything I want to see is on a channel I have. On a recent Thursday, for example, I wanted to watch the St. Louis Cardinals play the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field, but the game was on CSN, the Chicago Sports Network, which I don’t get but probably could if I wanted to pay more.
Paying more could also get me the critically acclaimed “Game of Thrones” on HBO and “Homeland” on Showtime.
But with TV and Internet, my monthly Time Warner bill is already a substantial $130 a month, so I’m not sure I want to add premium channels like Showtime and sports packages like Major League Baseball.
The solution is a la carte pricing, which many people have been lobbying for. But the networks that produce content don’t like a la carte because they want the cable and satellite companies to carry not only their hit shows but also their less popular offerings. For that reason, pessimists argue that a la carte pricing will never come about.
But the record labels, which were used to selling $15 CDs, didn’t care much for iTunes and its 99-cent songs, and they’re still not the music service’s biggest fans. But since its founding in 2003, iTunes has sold 25 billion songs and is now the largest distributor of music. The record labels have done quite well financially as a result.
Equally important, consumers have decided that they prefer buying their music a la carte. (Otherwise, iTunes would have flopped.)
One day, a broadcaster – cable, satellite or online – will strike a deal with content providers, much like Apple did with the record labels. The dominos will fall after that, and I’ll be able to watch the Cubs whenever I want.
Speaking of baseball
A night at the ballpark can be expensive: $5 to park, $10 for a ticket, $9.50 for a beer and peanuts, and that’s before my wife and daughter have anything to eat and drink. But a ball game is even more expensive if you go with David Rouzer, the Johnston County Republican who’s running, again, for Congress.
The other day I received an invitation to attend a Mudcats game with Rouzer, who fell just a few hundred votes short of unseating incumbent Democrat Mike McIntyre last November in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District. The invitation noted that I could be a host for $2,600, a co-host for $1,000, a sponsor for $500, a co-sponsor for $250 or, simply, a guest for $150. A double asterisk near the bottom of the invitation was nice enough to note that the amount paid included admission to the game.
Forgive me, but $150 or more is a lot to spend to watch Single A baseball.
I’m not trying to pick on Mr. Rouzer here. I merely point to the invitation to lament how expensive it’s become to wage political campaigns these days.
When North Carolina was a much smaller state, candidates stumped for votes in person. They still do that, but as the state has grown in population, candidates have had to turn to mass media to reach the greatest number of potential voters, and mass media costs money. (Last time around in the Rouzer-McIntyre race, outside groups alone spent some $6 million, mostly on TV ads, in a district that stretches from Clayton to Wilmington.)
Those dynamics are unlikely to change in the years ahead – North Carolina isn’t shrinking – which is to say that I will probably never see a Mudcats games with Mr. Rouzer or any other politician for that matter.
Who can make education policy?
The Facebook post said, “This chart represents the teaching experience of most people making decisions about education.” It then showed a woman holding a blank piece of poster board.
No doubt, most people writing education law in North Carolina do not have degrees in education; nor have they been classroom teachers. But the argument that only educators should make education policy suggests that only educators have a stake in North Carolina’s public schools.
Obviously, that’s not the case. Children have a stake in the schools; so do parents and taxpayers. So what if the Facebook post said, “This chart represents the parenting experience of most people making decisions about education”? Or the taxpaying experience? Clearly, the piece of poster board would not be blank.
Which is to say that while educators are the education experts, they alone are not entitled to make education policy in North Carolina schools. To argue that they are is, in a word, arrogant and emblematic of the challenges facing education reform in the Tar Heel State.