RetroTV Rabbit Ears

TV with Rabbit Ears

For those of you reading this that don’t remember black and white television broadcasts, you might be thinking the title of this blog is making fun of Grandpa’s ears, the ones attached to his head. Brief lesson for the younger set; prior to cable and satellite television providers, one would purchase an antenna for their television to improve reception of broadcast signals coming across the airwaves. Most antenna sets had a heavy base and two expandable metal rods, giving them the name rabbit ears. So you could watch local broadcast television for free given your proximity to the television towers broadcasting the signal.

Today in the age of cable and satellite television, most people don’t realize television signals are still broadcast over the air. As Netflix and Hulu erode the traditional broadcast base, a company called Aereo is putting the nail in the proverbial major network coffin. Using technology, Aereo captures these over the air broadcasts and them makes them accessible via the internet to its subscribers willing to pay just $8 per month.

As you might imagine, the broadcast networks such as ABC, NBC and CBS are not happy with this service that takes their highly scheduled programming and makes it available anytime a customer wants it and at a fraction of the cost from cable and satellite providers. They are accusing Aereo of copyright infringement. The Copyright Act states that the owner of a creation has the exclusive right to perform the work publicly. Aereo argues that a broadcast via the Internet to a person’s computer is not a public performance; and The Second Circuit court agreed. This case is now before the Supreme Court and their ruling could impact the way we watch TV.

I am thinking about how this could apply to higher education. What if a college simply took lectures captured and distributed via the college website, MOOCs or social media outlets such as YouTube and then packaged them into a degree program for a fraction of the cost? In theory, you could argue that the content comes from an accredited college and that an amalgamation of accredited content should equate to an accredited degree. And no rabbit ears required!

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