When introduced to America in the late 1940s, the television was predicted to be a brief fad that wouldn’t last more than a few years. Now in 2015, the world of television has become a staple of pop culture and modern day media distribution. Through decades of technological development and changes in consumer preferences, the television industry has managed to adjust and remain relevant. While premium channels like HBO (Home Box Office) and Showtime once rattled the nerves of top broadcast networks, the advent of digital streaming services like Netflix have become the latest innovation to pressure change in the industry.
The current changes to the television industry bring to light some of the shortcomings of the current model. Streaming services do not require the use of cable operators to distribute their content allowing consumers fewer barriers to access. In contrast, HBO has the power to choose which distributors it interacts with and therefore which audiences are left with or without access. Airwave usage is often considered a public commons, as evidenced by radio. Although distributed through similar methods as radio, television has historically been treated differently. HBO’s terms of distribution regulate the commons, and in doing so defies the rationality set by Kantian logic. The network’s reputation as a cutting edge innovator and industry leader makes it all the more surprising that HBO would impede on the public’s the right to content. The potential to understand the rationality behind HBO’s practices of distribution lies in thinking of the commons in conjunction with Kantian theories of ethics. Continue reading For the Common Good: An Analysis of HBO’s Manipulation of the Commons