Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Department of Give and Take

Got a letter from my friends at Rogers Cable today.

"Dear valued customer", it begins. "On or about February 6th, 2007, Rogers™ will be making changes to your cable television programming lineup."

Besides moving the channels at the end of the dial even further out into the hinterlands (CPAC goes from channel 68 to channel 104), they are adding BBC World to my cable package but at the same time are dropping CNN Headline News. I think it nets out to be an improvement to my cable package, and my bill's not even going up...

CNN Headline News was once a very simple channel - just a half-hour package of news that I discovered was not actually updated on a half-hourly basis, but rather when it needed to be updated and otherwise re-run all day. But a few years ago someone in programming decided to spice up the format, to kick things up a notch, if you will, by introducing a block of "personality-driven" opinion shows in primetime, none of which have anything to do with headline news and are re-run into the night.

Nancy Grace is a shrill victim's rights advocate who constantly employs 'Breaking News!' banners on her legal affairs program while covering missing children's cases which are not breaking-news-status stories elsewhere. She spends the whole show in a state of moral outrage, bugging out her eyes and stomping over the last three words of everyone's sentences. She's a walking Saturday Night Live skit, only a skit about her wouldn't be as funny as her show actually is.

And then there's the monstrous persona of Glenn Beck, a talk radio gloater who identifies himself as more conservative than the Bush administration. He's Pepsi to Rush Limbaugh's Coke, a Howard Beale manqué in beige Dockers who goes after "political correctness" and holds "Rally for America" events through the heartland, a part of the country known for their ambivalence towards the flag. When he had the first Muslim elected to Congress on his show, he actually said to him on the air "What I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies'".

Headline News also runs an entertainment news show indistinguishable from the others, except for the fact that every five minutes they remind you to watch the weekend edition of the show as well. They are quite emphatic that you do this. Okay, Rogers™, you're right. Take this channel away and thanks for the upgrade.

I wish it was the CRTC that was taking Headline News off the grid but it's just Rogers moving their pieces around the board. I heard the CRTC was considering revoking the Canadian broadcast license of the Spike channel, which used to be a country music station out of Nashville but has deteriorated into a pro-date-rape-and-body-spray channel where they give out Video Game Awards; one of the categories one year was "Best Performance By A Human Female" - Dame Judi Dench was nominated, but she lost to Brooke Burke. Who happened to be co-hosting the show.

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