CNBC, why can’t you just say “Programming To Be Determined”?

Well, it’s time to collectively put on our tin foil hats again. I’m not sure if there’s a Mea Culpa here from me, or if this merely firms up my idea that CNBC should “Announce what they’ll be broadcasting, and broadcast what they announce.” Or perhaps at least announce “Programming To Be Determined”.

Here are my previous entries on the subject: CNBC, take a lesson from the March Hare: Announce what you’ll be broadcasting, and broadcast what you announce and More on the CNBC schedule.

The base of my argument is that for a significant number of time slots, outside North America’s Eastern Time Zone’s business hours Monday to Friday, CNBC’s announced schedule isn’t particularly reliable. Possibly, in Canada only (since I get the Canadian feed, not the American feed.)

My argument isn’t with what is announced, or what is broadcast; in fact, on weekends, often while there are a lot of timeslots announced to be infomercials, the actual broadcasts are shows that are far more interesting (at least to me, and I suspect to the target CNBC viewers), such as “American Greed” or another one of CNBC’s excellent documentaries on businesses, products, and business people, or investigative reports. At other times, the shows that are broadcast instead of the announced shows are of equally high calibre. Finally, at other times, live market shows are shown instead of the announced shows, such as Squawk Box from the Pacific Region (Australia, Japan, China, etc.).

My argument is with the fact that the announced schedule and the actual broadcast schedule don’t match. In a chronically rampant fashion (and yes, the differences continue to this day; I’ve been watching different shows on CNBC from what was announced all this weekend.) Virtually all other channels and networks seem able to do a competent job of making the two almost always identical. Sure there are the very occasional errors, be they clerical errors about the show to be broadcast, or the episode summary. Occasionally, breaking news or other such time-sensitive programming (emergency alerts, last-minute press conferences from authorities, “Town Hall” style meetings with local leaders, etc.) relevant to the station’s or network’s mandate get put in instead of the announced broadcast. But never such that I can even say “but never so flagrantly as what I’ve seen with CNBC’s schedule.”

This weekend, amusing myself, I have been doing some surfing about CNBC. I came across this piece on Wikipedia on the subject of CNBC’s regional programming, particularly here in Canada (June 06, 2010): (here’s my archive)

“In Canada, CNBC can be seen with most of the programming identical to the US counterpart. However, due to Canadian programming rights, the 9pm slot which shows television programming such as Deal Or No Deal, The Apprentice, 1 vs. 100 and Heads Up Poker, as well as any and all Olympic Games coverage, are replaced by CNBC World programming. However, documentaries are shown in Canada. This had the making of a major problem, as a highlight episode of The Apprentice 5 that aired April 23, 2006, was assumed to not be available anywhere for Canadians due to these blackouts. While the first airing at 9:00pm ET was blacked out, the second airing at 12:00am ET was accidentally shown. Blackouts on episodes that originally air on NBC and Global are likely to continue. However, occasionally, the television shows are shown and are not blacked out, possibly due to a mistake in transmission.”

This confirms the notion that occasionally there are clerks from either CNBC’s or Shaw’s (a Canadian satellite TV supplier) programming departments who take too many coffee breaks and make mistakes juggling the schedules and differences between the two countries. This happens anywhere and everywhere, and is understandable.

I also don’t have an issue with the notion that there are replacements and substitutions in the programming (see previous paragraph); in any case, c’est la vie.

It also confirms the occasional blackout situation to which I indirectly but not expressly alluded in one of my previous posts when I talk about the flicker at the beginning of some of the programs: Sometimes there are broadcasting rights issues here in Canada, such as:

– the copyright owner does not allow the distribution outside of the US, or within Canada;
– the copyright owner wants an extra fee for broadcasting rights outside the US, or within Canada, which CNBC is unwilling to pay;
– a separate Canadian affiliate of the copyright owner, or another network, or someone else, holds the distribution rights for given shows here in Canada;
– etc.

And except in the cases where another network in Canada holds the distribution rights, maybe CNBC doesn’t want the bother of a new set of negotiations or fees; this is CNBC’s prerogative. Certainly defining the conditions of distribution is the prerogative of the copyright holder(s).

It also indirectly allows for why an announced infomercial such as “Get Ripped in 90 Days” and “Insane Sexy Bodies” is replaced by another show, such as “American Greed” or another one of CNBC’s excellent documentaries on businesses, products, and business people, or investagative reports: The sponsor isn’t interested in selling to Canadian markets (which is their prerogative) or can’t sell their product or service in Canadian markets (let’s say it’s a product that doesn’t meet Canadian Regulatory Standards, or has never been submitted for regulatory review in Canada.)

But so far I haven’t seen anything that explains why the CNBC’s schedule is so out of whack: If CNBC has to modify its broadcast schedule here in Canada for whatever reason, and it seems — let’s presume — that CNBC’s programming department is doing its job right and all broadcast rights are being respected, then why can’t they also send the corrected schedule, which they’ve managed to figure out, to the programming departments of Shaw and other cable companies, and to TV Guide?

I doubt that at 59 minutes and 59 seconds before the hour, as they’re about to put in the next tape, they flip a coin. Or, that a week in advance when they send the schedule to Shaw, other cable companies, and TV Guide, it’s easier to plug in all sorts of programming in the announced schedule that they have no clue whether or not will actually be broadcast, than to just say “Programming To Be Determined”.

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