Op-Ed Spotlight: I'll Pay for Ad-less Television

What if information isn't better when it's "free"?

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"The old hacker slogan from a quarter-century ago, 'information wants to be free,' can be an organizing principle for the information economy of the future." That's what the Internet has taught the new generation, says Eduardo Porter in The New York Times. But what if that slogan can't hold true?

Porter highlights one obvious fact: a lot of TV isn't free, and "free" TV means commercial-cluttered programs. He argues that the ABC-Disney-Cablevision spat--which caused many viewers to miss 14 minutes out of the Oscars--shows why it's worth it for viewers to pay for content. From there he expands to a broader conclusion:

Cablevision's basic "family cable" package costs $55.95 a month, which works out at most to 37 cents an hour per home. That is cheap compared with the real price we pay for television: 18 minutes out of every hour that we are expected to spend watching ads. Those 18 minutes are much more valuable to me and you than they are to ABC.

Porter dreams of TVs with coin slots or PayPal accounts that would allow you to pay to get rid of commercials. He says technology might be drifting that way anyway, as networks scramble for money amid falling ad revenue. When it comes down to it, he asks, "wouldn't you rather pay 79 cents for an hourlong show to get rid of the ads?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.