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A Word On Internet Shopping: Charity Auction results, iPod "excessories," and adios Homer 

As a newspaper supported entirely by local advertisers (i.e. mom and pop businesses) we're not huge fans of Internet shopping, which serves as a giant

As a newspaper supported entirely by local advertisers (i.e. mom and pop businesses) we're not huge fans of Internet shopping, which serves as a giant cash vacuum, siphoning dollars out of the local economy to some faceless corporation. The notable exception is our annual Charity Auction, which turns the whole Internet cash vacuum model on its head.

Each year the Source, working with local businesses that donate all of the items for the auction, donates all the proceeds from the annual bid-fest to a local non-profit. This year the auction raised almost $4,000 for the Partnership to End Poverty, a local umbrella group that works to coordinate and fund local initiatives aimed at addressing the root of poverty in Central Oregon. It's an issue that's come into sharp focus as of late as the local and national economy falters, unemployment climbs to double digits and families are having a hard time making ends meet.

The Charity auction wouldn't be possible without our business partners, who are too many to name here, who donated their goods and services at no cost to the auction. Also, a big thanks to all of our readers who took the time to bid on items - win or lose. And finally a big thanks to our friends at Virtual Native, who donated their time and expertise to provide the entire web support for the auction. Thanks Josh and Shanna.

To all of you who bid, but didn't win, we promise that we'll be back next year.

Can You Put It On Shuffle?

Upfront receives a hefty amount of "press releases" during the holiday season that are bent on letting us know how incredibly useful and ultimately awesome a certain product happens to be. Most of these are immediately tossed, but one e-mail in particular was too good to let pass by without a mention.

The item this release got us aware of is the iBreathe - a self breathalyzer that you (and we're not making this up) plug into your iPhone or iPod to test your own sobriety. Oh! And it also doubles as an FM transmitter that will pump the tunes on your iPod onto your car radio. So, essentially the same device that is playing the new Brittany Spears track on your radio can also be trusted to measure your ability to safely pilot an automobile.

And if you get pulled over by a cop who questions your sobriety and asks you to take a breathalyzer test, you can say, "Of course officer. In fact, I'd prefer we use my own breathalyzer, if you don't mind. That way, you can check out my drunken-driving mix. Make sure you dig that Scissor Sisters track at the beginning, it's so cool."

We like staying safe on the roads, but at what point do the i-accessories start getting a little overboard. What's next? The i-Defibrillator? The i- Colonoscopy?

The Gift of No ESPN

Is there anyone else out there who is still using analog cable? Because if you are, you probably shouted "hell no" last night when you flipped to ESPN for Monday Night Football to find that the station had been "blued out" for good. And by blued out, you know what we're talking's the process by which Bend Broadband has been systematically removing channels from its analog subscribers to make room for more HD channels. They took away our ESPN two days before Christmas? Isn't that a little on the grinchy side? What about all those bowl games? Now you're probably wondering why we haven't converted to digital cable if we're so upset. Well, we'll tell you...after we finish organizing our VHS tapes, recording a new message on our wall-mounted answering machine and watering our Chia Pet.

Get Off My Cable

In a homegrown case of truth being stranger than fiction, Homer Simpson may be kicking himself off local cable television. Simpsons fans will remember that Homer once famously stole cable television and became the star of his neighborhood with Bart charging classmates admission into an afternoon screening of the Playboy channel.

As it turns out, cable wasn't a good fit for the Simpsons. Now it appears that in Central Oregon, at least, the Simpsons aren't a good fit for cable. To wit, the local FOX affiliate KFXO has announced that it is pulling its programming from Bend Broadband unless the cable provider ponies up for FOX's content, which includes NFL football playoffs, BCS bowl games and a new season of American Idol in January, in addition to the Simpsons.

At issue is whether cable companies like Bend Broadband should have to pay to carry local network affiliates whose content is otherwise available for free over the air. Traditionally, cable companies have been permitted to carry these local stations at no charge through a negotiated "re-transmission" agreement. It's a scenario that has helped to preserve some of the networks market share as more viewers switch to cable or other subscription services, and it's also helped cable maintain a competitive edge over satellite television in rural areas, like Central Oregon, where the companies like Direct TV don't offer local, or national, network channels. But that cozy relationship is on the rocks, not just here, but nationally, as network station owners try to squeeze revenue out of cable companies.

Last year we reported that Bend Broadband was formally opposing the sale of KFXO from then-owner Meredith to News Press and Gazette, ostensibly because of concerns about maintaining "competition" in the local television market. But we speculated that another motive could be that Bend Broadband feared that NPG, which already owned KTVZ, would have enough leverage to force the local cable to negotiate a pay-to-carry agreement.

Lo and behold...

If NPG is successful, look for other local network stations including KOHD (ABC) and the newly launched KBNZ (CBS) to follow suit when their contracts expire. At the very least, expect to see NPG pull KTVZ from Bend Broadband when its contract is up in 2011.

In the meantime, Upfront suggests you dig out those "rabbit ears" and start counting up the reasons why you would willingly pay more for cable than satellite TV if the playing field were level.

Somewhere Homer Simpson is crying in his Duff beer.


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