Ruth Bass: Time Warner increases our remoteness
If anyone out there still thinks corporations aren't in charge, he/she should dwell a moment on Time-Warner Cable's outrageous announcement about NECN. In a few weeks, Matt Noyes, Tim Kelly, Leslie Gaydos and their compatriots will no longer be guests in our kitchen - or anyone else's in the Berkshires.
We don't think NECN -- the New England Cable Network -- is perfect. Sometimes they are too down-home, sometimes a little sappy, and we often resent the fact that their periodic selection of the "best" diner, hot dog, glass of cider or toy store rarely includes anything in the Berkshires. And then we figure Berkshire people just haven't nominated anyone.
What they provide at our breakfast table is snippets of last night's Red Sox game, plus coverage of Boston's Mayor Menino making his graceful exit from office, the Marathon tragedy of 2013 and the emergence of Boston Strong, Governor Patrick, the weather for New England. And we're kept up to date on important things in the five states that we consider our neighbors.
We care little for the Capital District (that's New York talk) and its perp patrol, the annual delays of the state budget, the comments of Governor Cuomo, the weather in Greene County and yet another lake effect snowfall in upstate New York. We buy cars in New York State, we take trains in New York State, we eat their peaches and occasionally we patronize one of their restaurants. But their news of the day is irrelevant to us.
So when our cable company -- and we have no choice about cable companies -- has the ignorance and arrogance to place us in something called the "Albany television market," we feel the blood starting to simmer. It bubbles over when we realize we are totally helpless. Time-Warner rules.
The cable people have already made it necessary for us to fish out the remote whenever our Channel 5 from Boston is duplicating something from that "Albany market." It would make more sense to knock out the Albany channel and let us continue with the channel that gives us weather, sports and political news about the state we live in.
But no. Instead, a PR man in North Carolina announces that NECN doesn't represent "good value for all of our New England customers." He says "unique content" is one of the criteria used in dropping or adding channels. Well, the content from the west is unique in that its commercials and its news have little or nothing to do with the Berkshires. It's far more likely, in this corporate culture we live in, that it's somehow all about money.
But what we care about -- and need to know about -- is what's happening to the east, in our state capital and with our New England neighbors. We don't need the seemingly endless coverage of high school teams that seems to be a favorite topic with the Capital District broadcasters.
What we do want -- and NECN is even more important now that Channel 5 has been restricted -- is detailed coverage of things like Scott Brown's latest thoughts, what Elizabeth Warren is doing, which casino is emerging as a winner in the state, how the Maine lobster harvest is, where the governor stands on the minimum wage, what kind of person has just been elected mayor of Boston. We need details on the Marathon survivors, Big Papi's future and whether the Celtics will win without Doc Rivers.
It may be parochial to want these things. The answer to that is that we want our own parochial, not Albany's. We pay our cable bills every month, we want our stuff. And we are delighted to see that our various legislators are more than remotely interested in this outrage, even as we know how remote our chances are.
Ruth Bass subscribes to Time-Warner's monopoly in Richmond. Her web site is www.ruthbass.com.