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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Weathering DirecTV’s business choices

This sort of thing probably shouldn’t bother me, but I can’t help it. Joseph Myers’ piece on the op-ed page of Friday’s Tampa Tribune is nothing but a busybody intrusion on what comes down to a simple business dispute between private entities. He wants to make it something else entirely.

Myers is irritated that DirecTV, the nation’s largest provider of satellite programming, has dropped The Weather Channel from its lineup. A former director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, now CEO of Disasters, Strategies & Ideas Group LLC—one of those ubiquitous non-governmental agencies that serves as a pipeline for public dollars—Myers decries DirecTV’s decision in tones that suggest a skeptically raised eyebrow.

DirecTV made its move, Myers writes, “for supposed cost-cutting reasons” and “in the name of profit,” suggesting he doubts the merits of the former and derides the latter as “misguided.” Easy for him to say; Myers isn’t signing DirecTV’s payroll checks.

Myers claims The Weather Channel’s coverage, especially during meteorological crises, is indispensible, but I’m less certain. The Tampa area is blessed with top-notch weather-tracking professionals at four of its network-affiliated broadcast stations (not to mention those operating out of Sarasota-Bradenton), and, at the approach of any potential natural catastrophe, radio offers several robust options, as does the internet.

Similar claims can be made on behalf of every Florida region served by major-market media outlets, which is to say: Florida is blanketed.

Of course, TWC stays on top of heavy weather wherever and whenever it happens in the United States, churning out much-see-TV for what the network calls “weather enthusiasts.” As this is written, this Verizon FIOS client is being treated to explanations of low pressure systems rumbling white and blowing across New England, when suddenly there’s the Valentine’s Day tale of a couple who were engaged in the middle of Hurricane Irene blowing through Virginia Beach in 2011. Now there’s Al Roker describing havoc-wreaking weather systems in America from the Winter Olympics in balmy Sochi, Russia. Talk about indispensable.

If only there were some other way to receive this crucial information. If only The Weather Channel had a web site. Or a mobile app. Or other TV carriers.

Oh, wait.

Among the beauties of this country is our largely unfettered access to choice. You love your DirecTV but can’t live without TWC (what my Alabama in-laws call “the radar channel”)? Petition the company. These things have ways of working themselves out when enough clients make demands (but don’t squawk when your rates go up a couple of bucks a month). Otherwise, competing carriers have ways of softening the financial blow for those who decide they simply must switch.

But to read Myers’ take, TWC borders on being a public service, too essential to be limited by a mere “business reason.” Here’s a thought: If it weren’t for business decisions, there wouldn’t be a DirecTV or The Weather Channel in the first place.