This is only peripherally about the Major League Baseball Extra Innings package, although I will discuss that angle again. But I can’t let it pass when a politician so bravely steps in to assist in a way that highlights his previous hypocrisy. Consider:
A proposal to make Major League Baseball’s “Extra Innings” exclusive to DirecTV has drawn the ire of Sen. John Kerry.
The Massachusetts Democrat said he plans to raise the matter with the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission at a hearing Thursday.
“I am opposed to anything that deprives people of reasonable choices,” Kerry said in a statement. “In this day and age, consumers should have more choices _ not fewer. I’d like to know how this serves the public _ a deal that will force fans to subscribe to DirecTV in order to tune in to their favorite players. A Red Sox fan ought to be able to watch their team without having to switch to DirecTV.”
So many issues pop up, but it’ll probably make the most sense to first address the MLB decision in the context of Sen. Kerry’s remarks. MLB is stupid if it proceeds with this asinine marketing strategy, but it is free to hurt its business if it so chooses. It is not obligated to “serve the public” any more than Whole Foods is obligated to cater to vegans. That, of course, brings up the notion that consumers should have more choices. I view keeping cable as an Extra Innings choice as desirable because it specifically impacts me. But MLB should have the same range of choice to run its business in whatever way it believes will maximize its profits and its brand, even if that means running both into the ground. Sen. Kerry’s rhetoric will serve well the economic populism that pervades our public discussion, but it’s misguided.
With his statements, Sen. Kerry also managed to make a mockery of his stances on most economic issues and many personal choice issues. If Senator Kerry is in favor of people having reasonable choices, why isn’t he promoting Social Security reform, for example? I contribute, even though I’d prefer to put my money in personal investments controlled by me and backed up by actual assets. But I don’t have that choice. How does that serve the public? I’m sure I could walk through a point-by-point list of Sen. Kerry’s campaign issues and find many more examples where he’s been less than a champion for allowing people to have choices. (I have little doubt I can find multiple examples where Sen. Kerry believes that businesses should be limited, so I won’t challenge him there.)
Greater than all of this, though, is the simple fact that Chairman Kevin Martin and the FCC have no regulatory control over cable that would enable it to take action against Major League Baseball. Sen. Kerry should know this. I assume he does, but that doesn’t sell because then the government¹ isn’t there to come to the rescue.
¹ Major League Baseball should not have anti-trust exemption. There shouldn’t be anti-trust prosecution against MLB if it didn’t have the exemption, but that’s getting further into that issue than I’m interested. Since these are the rules we’re operating under, and MLB is happy to benefit from them, I won’t feel bad if/when Congress goes after the owners for this exclusive deal with DirecTV. Feed the snake enough and you will get bitten.