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经济学人:美国电视产业 广播电视业界的强盗

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Television in America

美国电视产业
The bandit of broadcast
广播电视业界的强盗
The Supreme Court's decision on Aereo may affect more than the TV business
最高法院将对Aereo案件进行裁决,而其影响范围或许会超出电视产业本身
CHET KANOJIA, the founder of Aereo, wonders which actor will play him, when Hollywood makes a film about his startup disrupting the television industry. “Probably a white guy,” Mr Kanojia, who is Indian-American, says drolly. Whether his firm will feature on the big screen or rapidly be forgotten depends on the outcome of a lawsuit between Aereo and America's big free-to-air broadcast networks—such as ABC, CBS and Fox—which is being weighed by the Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the case were heard on April 22nd and a decision is due within months.
当好莱坞的电影公司想要拍一部关于Aereo创始人Chet Kanojia如何瓦解整个电视产业的电影之时,这位老板也在思考着到底让哪一位演员来扮演自己。“或许会挑个白人,”印度裔美国人Kanojia先生戏谑地说道。最后他的电影到底是能成功登上大荧幕,抑或是迅速被大家所遗忘,要取决于一场官司的最终结果。最高法院正在对这场官司进行权衡,而对抗双方则是Aereo与美国免费广播电视巨头,如美国广播公司、哥伦比亚广播公司和福克斯广播公司。案件的口头辩论在4月22日已经完成,而最终裁决将在数月之内宣布。

Mr Kanojia and Aereo are not yet household names, but are the subject of much debate among geeks, copyright lawyers and TV executives. Aereo picks up the signals of free-to-air channels and streams them to its subscribers over the internet, so they can watch them with the same good picture quality as they get via cable, but for a fraction of the average monthly cable bill. Each subscriber is assigned one of a huge number of thumbnail-sized aerials in Aereo's warehouses. Aereo claims this is in principle no different—and thus no less legal—than the subscriber putting an antenna on his roof. But broadcast bosses see it differently. They say Aereo is violating copyright law by not paying them for a “public performance” of their content.

Kanojia与Aereo目前还不是一对家喻户晓的名字,但对于极客、版权律师以及电视主管们来说,这确实是极为火热的话题。Aereo公司接收免费广播电视的频道信号,并把这些频道转化成流媒体以供他们的付费订阅用户在线观看。因此,这些用户在付出相当于普通有线电视月租费用的很小一部分,就可以享受跟有线电视一样的高画质电视服务。相当于在Aereo公司的仓库里,有数以百万计的“微缩远程天线”,而每个订阅用户都能分到其中一条。Aereo公司宣称,这与免费广播电视的服务没什么不同,就像是让他们的客户在自己家的房顶安装天线接收信号一样,是非常合法的行为。但广播电视公司的老板们却不这么认为。他们坚持Aereo公司违反了版权法,因为后者没有给他们提供的节目内容付费,就进行了“公开传播”。
So far Aereo is available in only 11 cities. But broadcasters worry that it threatens a fast-growing revenue stream: the fees they get from cable- and satellite-TV operators that retransmit their channels. Such fees came to about $3.3 billion in 2013, according to SNL Kagan, a data firm. The pay-TV companies would not want to keep paying these if Aereo did not have to. So broadcasters have threatened that if Aereo wins, they will take their content off the public airwaves and offer it through pay-TV only.
目前,Aereo的服务范围仅限于11个城市。但是,广播电视公司担心这样的服务会威胁到自身的快速增长利润源:对有线或者卫星电视运营商处所收取的转播费用。数据公司SNL Kagan所提供的资料显示,2013年该转播费用总计为33亿美元。如果Aereo公司无需为转播权买单,那么其他付费电视公司也将停止为自己的转播权付费。因此广播电视公司对Aereo公司做出了相应的警告:如果Aereo公司胜诉,那么他们将停止在公共无线频道上提供电视转播服务,转交由付费电视公司独家供应给观众。
Aereo has raised around $100m from various investors, including Barry Diller, a veteran media executive. Mr Diller's volte-face is worthy of a prime-time drama: having launched Fox, one of America's four big broadcast networks, in the 1980s, he is now a booster for broadcast's bandit. But if Aereo loses it will probably shut down. The government has supported the big broadcasters, undermining Aereo's chances. As for the courts, so far their judgments on Aereo's legality have been mixed: last year two federal courts sided with Aereo, but in February a federal court in Utah ordered it to close its operations in that state.
Aereo已经得到了各路投资者约1亿美元的资金,这其中还包括传媒大亨巴里·迪勒。迪勒先生截然不同的投资转变就像是一出黄金时段的电视剧:80年代,他成立了福克斯广播公司,而现在他却成了电视业大盗的赞助者。然而Aereo公司一旦败诉,很可能对其意味着关门大吉。目前政府已经与各大广播电视巨头在统一战线,使Aereo公司的胜诉几率大减。在法庭方面,他们对Aereo合法性的判决并没有达成共识:去年两个联邦法庭支持Aereo公司,但今年2月犹他州的一个联邦法庭则勒令其停止在本州内的所有业务。
Legislation has not kept up with new technology. Cable in America is regulated by a 1992 law, and copyright by a 1976 one. Both were written before the rise of the commercial internet, notes Rich Greenfield of BTIG, a research firm.
法律法规没有跟上新科技的步伐。有线电视产业受1992年出台的法律管制,而版权问题则受1976年的法律所管理。来自调查机构BTIG的Rich Greenfield表示,在网络商务兴起之前这两部法律就已经制订完成。
Many are watching the case to make sure the verdict does not imply that it is piracy to transfer any sort of content via the internet without a licence from whoever owns the copyright to it. That could be costly for firms that store media files in the “cloud” for paying clients, such as Apple and Google. As Stephen Breyer, one of the Supreme Court justices, said in this week's hearing, “What disturbs me…is I don't understand what the decision for you or against you…is going to do to all kinds of other technologies.”
许多人正关注着本案的进展。他们要确定本次的宣判是否意味着在网络上传播任何未经版权拥有者许可的内容,都会被认定为盗版行为。一旦如此,许多为付费用户提供“云端”影音资料储存的公司将会出现极大的经营成本负担,比如苹果和谷歌。最高法院的法官之一斯蒂芬·布雷耶在本周的聆讯过程当中表示:“困扰着我的问题是...我不能确定本案的判决会对其他各类科技产生什么样的影响,无论好坏。”
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quality ['kwɔliti]

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n. 品质,特质,才能
adj. 高品质的

 
principle ['prinsəpl]

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n. 表演,表现; 履行,实行
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adj. 最初的,首要的,最好的,典型的
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supreme [sju:'pri:m]

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adj. 最高的,至上的,极度的

 
screen [skri:n]

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n. 屏,幕,银幕,屏风
v. 放映,选拔,掩

 
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