News

Harry Potter and the Order of the Free Nets

12/20/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Supporters of network neutrality
policies want the Federal Communications
Commission to toughen up a
draft order on the subject. They say proposed
measures to keep broadband networks
free of discrimination have been
rendered weak and ineffective. Not unlike
Fluff y, the three-headed guard dog in
the first Harry Potter movie.

Two million signatures on various network-
neutrality petitions were delivered
to the FCC last week. Some were from the
usual advocates: Free Press, Common
Cause and Media Access Project.

One that caught The Wire’s attention
was from The Harry Potter Alliance, a
group that sounds more like it should be
brewing butter beer or attending, wands
in hand, a third showing of Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
.

The alliance, according to its mission
statement, “fights the Dark Arts in the
real world by using parallels from Harry
Potter. We work for human rights, equality
and a better world just as Harry and his
friends did throughout the books.”

This month the group also is urging
Warner Bros. parent Time Warner Inc.
to switch to Fair Trade Chocolate for its
Harry Potter merchandizing, citing “inhumane
conditions” in the cocoa industry,
just as “Hermione Granger discovers
that the food at Hogwarts, chocolate included,
is being made by house elves —
essentially unpaid, indentured servants.”

The alliance is campaigning for network
neutrality under the auspices of
SPEW, or the Society to Protect Everyone’s
Websites.

In this movie, FCC chairman Julius
Genachowski presumably would be Harry,
battling the “dark” forces of media firms
that oppose neutrality regulations.

Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and
Michael Copps would play Harry’s friends
Hermoine and Ron Weasley. Though Copps
strikes The Wire as more the Dumbledore
type.

And yes, the boyish and bespectacled
Kevin Martin, Genachowski’s immediate
predecessor, has been the one more likely
to be called Harry Potter.

Martin, though, consistently said the
FCC didn’t need regulations to enforce network-
openness principles.

Ex-Charter Exec
Brings NBA to
Southern Africa

Cathy Fogler, the former Charter Communications
video services vice president,
and her husband, Robert, are building a
network of over-the-air affiliates transmitting
sports programming to a market of
300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Their venture, CAfrica Sports, last week
announced a multiyear agreement to make
National Basketball Association programming
the network’s centerpiece.

Fogler, who divides her time between
Denver and Rwanda, told The Wire that CAfrica
Sports now has broadcast affiliates in
21 countries, with plans to expand to a total
of 45 nations in the southern portion of the
continent (excluding South Africa itself, for
rights reasons).

After soccer, the National Basketball
Association
showed up in research as the
most popular sports property in the region,
Fogler said. CAfrica Sports will telecast (in
French and English) a game of the week on
Thursdays, the NBA All-Star Game and live
playoff games. The network also has trackand-
field events and is on the lookout for
other sports properties, she said.

She said the
network’s first NBA
game was shown in
Kenya and Ghana,
on the first two affiliates, on Dec. 24,
2009. By All-Star
Weekend in February
the affiliate
roster had grown to
15, en route to the
current 21 representing 21 countries.

“The TV business has some fundamental
values that are universal, and particularly
around sports,” Fogler said on a phone call
from South Africa. “Sport forms the bond
across families, across languages and borders.
Sport communicates the value of hard
work and persistence. In Africa, it occupies
a very special role because in Africa you
have many countries with many languages
and it’s a unique common ground of all cultures
and classes.”

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