It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s History Repeated


History (the A+E Networks channel) wound up in Sen. Tom Coburn’s “Wastebook 2013,” the latest in a series of annual reports highlighting “examples of wasteful and low-priority spending,” which totaled nearly $30 billion this year.

History was not on that naughty list, but did make a guest appearance as an example of why some government spending was unnecessary.

Coburn is a Republican from Oklahoma, and politics clearly plays some part in his choices in the report. Obamacare is on the list (Coburn calls it the biggest marketing flop since New Coke), as is spending by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and PBS, all familiar targets of Republican spending criticism.

In fact, Coburn was able to trample the NEA, the NEH and PBS in a single bound. The target was $125,000 in NEH financing of a PBS documentary, Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle, celebrating the 75th anniversary of Superman’s appearance in DC Comics’s Action Comics No. 1. Coburn even used a send-up of the comic’s front page for the cover of his report.

“The three-part documentary aired on PBS in October,” the report noted, and is now out on DVD. “That’s right, you paid to produce the series, and now you can purchase your own copy for $24.99.”

Where History comes in, according to the report, is that the NEH defended the funding by saying the PBS doc was “the first documentary to examine the dawn of the comic book genre and its powerful legacy.” The report pointed out, though, that History aired the similar documentary Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked, way back in 2005.

“While there is no denying the influence of comic books and superheroes, taxpayers deserve real heroic action to confront the debt monster that continues to grow evermore menacing as a result of Washington’s whimsical and wasteful spending on projects like this,” the report quipped.

— John Eggerton

CFBIT: A New Jumble For Alphabet Soup

The Wire was a little taken aback during DirecTV’s Investor Day presentation by a financial acronym not previously encountered — CFBIT (cash flow before interest and taxes, pronounced “siff bit”).

Thought we’d heard all of the variations on cash flow — from the classics like EBITDA (EB-ee-da, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and EBIT (EE-bit, earnings before interest and taxes) to the post-Adelphia tones of OPBDA (OP-DA, operating profi t before depreciation and amortization) and OIBDA (OY-be-da, operating income before depreciation and amortization).

A quick Googling of the acronym produced some interesting near-hits like The Canadian Friends of Bar-Ilan University and the Center for Functional Brain Imaging; some inexplicable, like the Central Florida Bear Hunters Association; and the awesomesounding Combined Federated Battle Lab.

Alas, CFBIT is just another way to measure cash flow, although relatively new to the cable space, according to some analysts, and basically means the same as the other terms — cash left over after actual business expenses.

— Mike Farrell