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There’s an ongoing debate being broadcast and put in print across the entire country.  Two different teams presenting two different vantage points, pushing for (almost) the same thing.  Months ago, CTV launched http://www.savelocal.CTV.ca – a website designed to inform broadcast television consumers about the new “tv tax” that’s been put on the table as a means to help protect local stations from going belly up. It’s made strides with its point of view, stating that when the tax is imposed, cable and satellite service providers will just let it roll downhill onto the consumer’s doorstep – not an entirely unrealistic theory.  In fact, service providers have already voluntarily admitted the intent, being warm and up-front honest letting the good customer know the increase might equate to $5 – $10 on monthly bills.

Local-TV-MattersA sub-page of the website – http://localtvmatters.ca/the-facts – counters that honesty, suggesting that it’s impossible to even apply a projected range to the increase given that 1. the tax isn’t even approved for imposition and 2. negotiations would then take place. Also on that particular page is representation of other network logos, including those of Global, A and publicly owned CBC. And, that’s not the only private-sector arrangement CBC’s gotten involved with lately, they’ve also snuggled up with the National Post in a two way exchange. CBC’s evolved exceptionally well over the last year or so – especially with respect to diversifying programming and kicking up their overall aesthetic but its not clear how a public/private arrangement will effect things in the longer term.

To counteract the assertions major networks are making, a second website dealing with the issues, http://www.stopthetvtax.ca, was launched. Almost exactly mirroring the overall message of CTV-lead Local TV Matters, it takes some reading to realize who’s attacking who.  Both websites have a days, hours, minutes and seconds countdown, both are urging visitors to contact the CRTC and both are fighting the imposition of any tax at all.  What’s different is this website sets the stage for service providers to cry wolf and say they’re barely making a cent.  The main splash is riddled with myths that are busted by facts about the profitability of being a service provider, presented by the service providers.  Hmm.

StopTVTaxOne myth says that in actuality, providers would go broke just providing broadcast television and that they need to bundle it with other add ons and services to survive. There may be some truth to that, but something suggests that the bleeding profits from providing broadcast signals aren’t quite that dire. They’re business people, and business people don’t stick with businesses that are money losers, especially in an economic crunch (just watching Dragon’s Den will show that).  That being said, the bottom line is that both websites are pushing against having to pay the tax at all; well, at least that it shouldn’t be paid by the consumer.

The coalition behind Local TV Matters is saying local TV is necessary and their feedback is that people want it… this fee’s coming, (is also necessary) and providers are going to come after consumers, and they’re already ripping them off. Stop The TV Tax on the other hand is saying the tax isn’t even the right answer, that they have no choice but to pass it on if it was imposed and even say “Canada’s big networks want the CRTC to impose another new fee on your bill” – true, but the CRTC doesn’t impose the fee being on the bill, and that’s misleading.

In fact, the CRTC issued this statement:

Consumers should contact their service suppliers, as this increase is not required or regulated by the CRTC. The CRTC considers that these companies can absorb a contribution to the LPIF of this size and does not see any reason why these supplemental costs should be transferred to their subscribers.

The LPIF by the way is the Local Programming Improvement Fund (a separate fund altogether), which received an increased contribution back in 2008, who paid for that you might wonder? If the guess was that it was passed onto consumers through small bill increases; that’s correct. And, even with that increase, the CRTC recommended against the trickle down effect. Providers defend themselves by saying that they’re obligated by law to broadcast the currently ‘free-to-air’ local signals, and imply that if they have no choice but to broadcast, consumers have no choice but to pay.

Regardless, they should be legally obligated to broadcast those signals; it shouldn’t be optional to pick up the local signal. And, don’t forget that providers are already (willingly) shelling out “in excess of $300 million” a year to US broadcasters according to Local TV Matters. They also provide the tidbit that in the last five years, basic cable bills have gone up more then four times the cost of living.

It doesn’t take an analyst to prove that; a quick comparison of the bills coming into my house put broadcast providers comfortably at the top in terms of how much it eats into income, after shelter (which is expected to take the lion’s share).

So, until November 2 when decisions are made that will no doubt change quite a lot, it’s a matter of public opinion and you just have to decide what side of the line to stand on.

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Yesterday’s Earth Day installment of Ellen featured a very eco-friendly set of gifts for lucky viewers and audience members.  Everything from bikes to blow dryers.  But there was one particular product that completely stood out from the rest and everyone should own one (of course, though I say this, I do not yet own one myself).  But, the concept is fantastic at least!

Go Green - Rusk

Go Green - Rusk

The giveaways started and truthfully I barely remember the first ‘smaller’ items that were dealt out.  The first one that really caught attention was a new combo from Rusk.  The hair care mega line has gone eco-conscious with a new Go Green line that has launched with a hair dryer and straightener.  What’s so special about a hair dryer?  This one uses up 26% less energy but still has the same fast airflow and intense heat people know, trust and expect from Rusk.  Plus, it’s made entirely out of recycled materials and the printing is even done in a soy-based ink.  Same goes for the straightener, minus the hot air blowing of course.  But for the straightener, it heats up in seconds (reducing usage time) and has a 10 minute hibernation feature if you’re the type to neglect turned on plugged in things (though this would be a scary practice and isn’t recommended).  The heating plates themselves also have a petroleum free coating on them so they’ll last nice and long without being harmful during the production process.

Activeion

Activeion

The real star of the give away though was a product called Activeion.  Like Red Bull, this is a single UPC brand, but like Red Bull, this product has serious potential.  Imagine never, ever ever, needing to buy another cleaning product.  Ever.  Now, imagine replacing all your cleaning products with water.  Activeion makes it possible.  It basically looks like a regular squirty bottle on steroids, made from a polycarbonate blend which will last ages.  The water reservoir part can hold up to 500ml of water and there is a eco-friendly long lasting rechargeable battery in the base to make it all work.  The battery charges the regular tap water slightly and specialized nozzle that is attached transforms the charged water by passing it through an ion exchange to create an oxygen-rich mixture of positive and negative nano-bubbles.  Now when you spray using the press and hold button (no trigger fatigue) the activated water will attract dirt like a magnet and lifts it from any surface, enabling it to be easily wiped away.  Not only would you want one of these things at home, but imagine the long-term, not to mention eco-friendly, cost savings that it would take care of for restaurants, airports, universities, schools and the list goes on.  This little guy will set you back by $299.99 though, but it’s an investment and really, you’d pay that for a good vacuum.

Biosphere Bakeware

Biosphere Bakeware

While we’re talking about interesting enviro-products, another company called Biosphere Industries launched a line of compostable baking ware in December.  It’s been slowly getting out into the marketplace mostly being used commercially, but their website does allow you to order samples for a fairly reasonable price ($3.25 – $8.99).  These have a multi-year long shelf life which is surprising but will biodegrade in 40 days outside.  They can be used in ovens (up to 420ºF) and microwaves safely and can also be frozen and still not go soggy.  Discovering this cool new way to bake was as a result of flipping through a Packaging Digest magazine which also had a couple of other neat new products that will pop up on shelves in the near future.

New Kelloggs Box

New Kelloggs Box

From environment saving to space saving, Kellogg’s is introducing a shorter fatter cereal box for 2009.  It’s only available in some test markets for now, but this change is probably one of the most monumental to the world of cereal in a very long time.  The previous items highlighted have been primarily sold with the ‘green’ approach, but that’s not to say the environment is less of a concern here.  This shorter stubbier box uses 8% less material then its processor.  The test phase will likely run for six months or so before this space saving alternative becomes globally available – pending consumer support.

Colgate Clear Tube

Colgate Clear Tube

The last new innovative approach to an already familiar product that to put under the spotlight is from Colgate.  Not particularly eco-conscious or space saving, there is a neat convenience factor.  One of the most annoying things in the world for just about everyone is the fact that you have no idea where the toothpaste is in the tube or how much is left once it’s past a certain point.  A packaging company called Sealed Air has developed a new completely clear tube for the Colgate line of products!  One more of life’s little frustrations all taken care of!

The (unfortunate) news came down today from the Malawian judge handling Madonna’s adoption request for a young girl named Chifundo James (which translates to Mercy in English) who is only 4 years old.  Ultimately the decision was chalked up to being due to the residency requirement and the fact that the judge felt the child was being “well taken care of” in the orphanage – this according to Zione Ntaba who is the spokesperson for the Malawi Justice Department.

Madonna and Lourdes in Malawi

Madonna and Lourdes in Malawi

Madonna, 50, filed for the adoption following the suggestion from many of her family’s Malawian friends who felt that David Banda would do well to have a sibling from the same place, combined with her own desire to help further.  Madonna faced fierce criticism throughout the adoption process in round one when David, who was adopted in 2006, first joined the family as Lourdes (12) and Rocco’s (8) new brother.  David, at only 13 months, had been placed into an orphanage by his father after the infant’s mother had died.  The same issues were at play back then as well, mostly regarding the fact that the country requires permanent residency of a future adoptive parent for 18 – 24 months.  Madonna and her lawyer, Alan Chinula have had to handle cross-fire from those that accuse her of using her fame, power and money to bend the laws of the country but Chinula believes there’s no reason to lose sleep this time around either, according to an NBC report.  Some public opinion stabs harder suggesting foreign adoption proves ignorance to children in need on home soil for a good home to stomach-turning disgusting allegations of “buying” children as accessories.

As for the argument that there are ‘plenty’ of children on this side of the Atlantic to adopt, there are many – this is true.  But the number’s pale in comparison to the dozens of countries that have hundreds of thousands in need – arguably in much worse conditions that are significantly more life threatening.  This is especially the case when considering a country like Malawi where the average life expectancy is 47 in a country where the entire population is 13.9 million, according to UNICEF.  Not to mention the fact that a million of those people are living with HIV/AIDS and are aware of it, not withstanding the segment of the population that is unaware of it based on information from the United States Agency for International Development’s papers on Malawi.  Some more startling numbers – 91,000 of those with HIV/AIDS are children and more then 500,000 children have been orphaned because of HIV/AIDS.

Madonna and David in Malawi, 2009

Madonna and David in Malawi, 2009

There was a media circus surrounding the adoption of David and it’s happening all over again.  Those that argue Madonna’s fame helped her swoop down and pluck up third-world children are obviously not seeing the other side of the coin and how incredibly difficult it must make it.  Adoption is a very rightfully deeply scrutinized process, but add on the international microscope over a celebrity and its that much worse.  Essentially, this adoption (and presumably any others similar to it) is being stopped because of a residency requirement.  Something very few third world countries have as part of their adoption laws – because its an act that should be encouraged not made more difficult.  Yes, the correct investigative measures must be taken to ensure permanent safety in placement – but moving to Malawi for up to 2 years makes any adoption exceptionally difficult.

It’s not like this is just a ‘hobby’ to her, she’s also invested an abundance of time and money in her effort to spotlight the country and its needs in her documentary I Am Because We Are, which was produced and promoted through the Raising Malawi organization as well as shown on select screens in North America.

Raising Malawi

Raising Malawi

When this case is considered especially with the fact that Madonna has established an international agency (Raising Malawai) to aggressively work for the protection, health, education and welfare of children in a country obviously chosen based on need – along with the fact that she’s invested personal finances in building educational institutions and infrastructure, the denial becomes even more difficult to accept so easily.  And this is not a point made in light of “she did this so she deserves that,” it’s a perfect example of the fact that Madonna is putting her money where her mouth is.

When millionaires, celebrity or not, are publically ‘owned’ there is always criticism of chartable contributions – mainly due to a lack thereof.

No less, the public opinion within the country, of its people is one of support for the adoption.  Capital FM which broadcasts in 5 cities throughout Malawi, including the capital, Lilongwe, said 99% of the callers to the station on Thursday wanted the adoption approved.

Frankly, it’s all a bit foolish.  Whatever way you cut it, if there is a family – any family – that is financially and morally stable to raise an orphaned child … and that family has the desire to invest time, love (and yes, money) into raising that child with every facet of a good life (as a private citizen or at varying levels of ‘fame’) then that adoption should be fully considered to the very finest point before just saying no.  The point is, famous or not and rich and powerful or not, Madonna’s desire to adopt has no right to be so heavily and openly criticized.

In any event, whether or not the timing was strategic, YouTube’s Screening Room feature section is now broadcasting the entire documentary on demand from the website and the 1h29min clip is included in this entry.

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makin’ sense of it all

keepin’ track of it all

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