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The Last Days of Lehman Brothers

The global financial meltdown began here in the United States a year ago, so it is odd that only the United Kingdom’s television viewers will be able to watch tonight’s presentation of “The Last Days of Lehman Brothers.”

The BBC broadcast, which has drawn good reviews, is the most ambitious dramatization to date of the events that nearly brought the world’s business infrastructure crashing down. I am among the many observers who believe policymakers made their biggest error of 2008 when they permitted Lehman’s abrupt collapse. Of course, this Monday-morning quarterbacking comes with the benefit of hindsight.

Viewers here will, no doubt, eventually be able to see “The Last Days,” but not in time for this week’s anniversary of the key events. For this we can blame the mysterious workings of network television scheduling and licensing. Or, if you subscribe to the rantings of the right-wing fringe, you might see a socialist conspiracy to maximize the audience for President Obama’s address to Congress tonight on health care.

While I don’t think the White House has anything to do with the BBC’s distribution arrangements, I imagine Team Obama is happy not to have the American public reminded of how recently we skirted economic disaster while he pushes for something close to $1 trillion in additional health care spending over the next decade.

If you are truly desperate to see the BBC broadcast but cannot make your way to England pronto (remember that time difference!), you still may have a couple of options. Somebody, I am sure, will record and post the broadcast on YouTube and other, less reputable, online video sites. YouTube will take down the posts as soon as the BBC or another holder of broadcast rights complains, which will be nearly instantaneously. But those less reputable sites may not be as responsive.

I am emphatically not advocating the use of illegal file-sharing sites. Several have been known to distribute infectious software along with those free videos. I merely recognize that some people will choose this route.

Another option, if you are technically sophisticated, might be to access the BBC’s own video website through a machine that is in the U.K., or you might use some type of “address spoofing” technique to make the BBC’s machines believe you are inside the country. BBC limits its video distribution by checking the address of the requesting machine against a list of addresses operated by British internet service providers. If you are not on the list, you don’t get to see the show. (Sometimes the World Wide Web is less world wide than we think.)

If you find this limited distribution annoying, it is worth remembering that British television owners support BBC programming through annual license fees that they pay on each TV set. I suppose they deserve first dibs in return for their money.

The rest of us need an easier way. The easiest, I suppose, is to wait. There may be other technical approaches that some readers might offer in reply to this post. Suggestions are welcome. Given a choice, I would watch “The Last Days” tonight rather than sit through yet another presidential hectoring on health care.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Looking Ahead When Youth Is Behind Us” and Chapter 4, “The Family Business."

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