From our Don’t-Shoot-the-Messenger Department: More on Public TV and Choice

by on February 27, 2007

Joe over at TechDirt today commented on my post yesterday about public television DTV worries. “James Gattuso,” he writes, “sees a possible sinister motive in the move” to get DTV converters distributed. Joe dismisses the idea that public television stations would try to keep the on-the-air viewers away from cable and satellite, where they may find other things to watch besides PBS. It just wouldn’t make sense, he says: “If this were indeed the intention, then the move would be shortsighted, since these stations would be better off making their content more appealing rather than hoping to limit viewer choice”.

But the idea didn’t come from me–it came from public TV executives, at least according to Communications Daily, which wrote:

“Station executives estimate that public TV could lose 10%-15% of its membership if their “loyal” viewers switch to cable or DBS because of a mismanaged transition. That’s because viewers would have more channel choices and less disposable income to contribute, they said. To head off problems, stations are proposing to distribute converter boxes as gifts for pledge contributions or membership incentives, they said.”

Joe perhaps is right that the issue will be insignificant because so few viewers are affected. But that’s not what station execs are saying. Of course, the execs may be wrong. But either way, it hardly inspires confidence in public television management.

As I said yesterday, it’s all very strange.

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