I want my cable and my local TV

November 17, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

Wow, our own high-stakes media war right here in Hagerstown. Watch out, Rupert Murdoch.

Both NBC25 and Antietam Cable are locked in a death struggle, and the issue boiled over into the public last week, with the television station seeking a boycott of the cable company and the cable company seeking an embargo of Kathleen Mitchell.

But before I go any further - per our normal disclaimer - I need to state for the record, in the interest of full disclosure, that The Herald-Mail Co. and Antietam Cable both share the same nightgown.

But be that as it may, I can still be objectionable. I do not look at this as a newspaper-news/television-news competitive thing, although from our perspective, without Channel 25 I'd be the only comedy act in town.


(Sorry. Antietam Cable made him say that, under penalty of not getting his turn with the nightgown - ed.)

I've done some investigative "digging around" and I have learned that, hard as it may be to believe, this dispute is over money, specifically 30 cents.

That's how much less NBC wants to pay Antietam Cable per customer each month in exchange for carrying NBC25 into your home. Antietam says it would be forced to pass this on to the consumer.

But gee, why break old habits? Cable is always blaming ESPN every time the rates go up, seems as if Antietam could do the same here. Maybe they could come up with a cooperative marketing slogan: "30 for 25 or Fight." No matter how big a cheapskate you are, I defy you to look me in the eye and tell me Lou Scally isn't worth 30 cents a month.

You can't lose Lou. No way. He's the face of Hagerstown. Even if you're not watching him, it's just comforting to know that he's there.

Of course, I must say, and this has nothing to do with nightgowns, I wasn't terribly pleased with the television station's suggestion that we all switch to satellite television.

Who do they think they are, Howard Stern? Look, I'm just not ready for that yet, OK? I've had about a million new technologies crammed down my throat in the last five years and I'm tired. I can't take another "next new thing" right now.

Besides, I rather like cable. I like to see the Actual Wire coming into my home. I know it's connected to something. I do not want to depend on some signal I can't see being bounced off of some glorified toaster oven in the sky with a name like PanStarzbird II.

The cable company is like the Post Office. More than 99.9 percent of the time it does the job perfectly, but all we remember is the one time it took our letter two weeks to get to Frederick.

So boys, boys, boys, can't we all just get along? Is it too much to want my local company AND my local television network? I like both sides, and I hate to see them fight.

This isn't like some big tobacco company playing an endgame with a faceless discount department store over the price of Skoal, where you wish they'd both just die. This is two of our friends, who are important parts of the community.

If we're going to lose a station, why can't it be that stupid Fox affiliate in Washington, D.C. You know, the one that would pre-empt a report on the outbreak of nuclear war if the Washington Redskins Auxiliary were playing a flag-football scrimmage against Athletes in Action. The station whose "storm team" interrupts "The Simpsons" every time it's drizzling in Manassas. Them we could lose.

And what station would the cable company get to replace Channel 25, Al-Jazeera? They got too many channels already, in my view. There are 10 channels showing you how to renovate an old house and 10 channels telling you how to tear down an old house. They have channels telling you how to make great desserts and channels showing people getting liposuction. They have channels telling you how to make money on the stock market and channels telling you how to spend money on junk. Church channels and sin channels. Animals saving people and animals attacking people.

You have television programs telling us we're all watching too much television, for crying out loud. Used to be, we had three networks and that weird independent channel in Altoona that carried Monty Python. If we didn't like what was on, we heaven forbid, went outside. But if they can't agree on anything else, I doubt either side in this dispute would want us doing that.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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