When 'pay TV' was commercial-free
Al D Squitieri,Sr
While reading complaints about the ever increasing cost of cable T.V. and telling of dissatisfaction with cable service, I was reminded of my own wheel-spinning battle with state senators and a local small-town cable company, now part of the massive Time Warner Cable conglomerate.
Back about 25 years ago, cable was relatively new and was the rage then, as the internet, cell phones and texting is today. In it's beginnings, television was considered a "limited intelligential wasteland;" However, it was then, as today, a great advertising medium. But viewers were tired of commercials interrupting our viewing in 15- minute intervals. After all, movie theaters weren't bugging us mid-movie.
Then, from Madison Avenue came a supposed answer to this nightmare of greed and wanton: They called it "Pay TV."
We were told for just pennies per day we could watch uninterrupted "commercial free television." Almost instantly, cable companies popped-up by the hundreds, each craving more than its fair share of a pot of gold.
Our supposed protective politicians told us there would be only one company per city, thus somehow guaranteeing fair pricing, excellent service, and respect for consumers. Most of all, the cable industry would never become a monopoly as did the other two giants: power and telephone.
That was in 1984. How far from the truth have we come 25 years later? Well, we still have our what's-in-it-for us politicians holding senate hearings every couple years to regulate the cable industry. After a few days of supposed protecting-the-public hearings, it's back to business as usual, with more rate increases and less free channels. Talk about blurred vision from snow on the TV screen.
Twenty-five years ago, I signed on for Commercial Free Television at just $9.50 per month. Not bad, I thought. The "basic package" included 29 channels, which included our four local channels. Although mostly giveaways or not-so-hot items, I thought that was better then poking my eye out with a rabbit-ear contraption or falling off the roof hugging the antenna.
Fast Forward to 2009. All the promises have faded like a bad TV set, and we cower to a near monopoly. I say near, because telephone and power companies are regulated and have to beg for rate increases. Not cable. They are averaging $2.50 per year increases- uncontested.
Why the strong hold on viewers? We have become mesmerized couch potatoes, who, like drug and alcoholic dependents, need the fix, and the misnamed service associates relish the agonizing of TV-addicted, near-brain-dead TV junkies. And this so-called service is "whenever we get there." meaning, wait around all day and we may show up sometime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., which should prompt us to appreciate our power and phone companies; in comparison, they are God-sent angels wearing tool belts.
In the last 25 years, channels have been re-listed, moved around, added to, and deleted through prestidigitation ~ now you can see it, now you can't. They will take away two or three favorite channels or shows and replace them with not-so-in-demand trash. If you want the better channels, you have to pay ~ again.
In 1984, I had 29 channels for $9.50. Now I have 79 for $76.50, most of which I do not want. The term "pay TV" applies to prime shows and channels such as Viewers Choice, Cinamax, Disney Channel, Showtime, and HBO. When you want to "rent" a movie on cable, you pay again, in addition to your cable bill. The not-so-prime are getting less, and the choice prime is getting more, in both volume and price.
And what happened to that concept of commercial-free TV? Surf the channels. See how many you find mid-commercial. The Weather Channel was commercial free, now you can get snowed-in wadding through commercials. They even have an ad scroll at the bottom. The joke about the frost being free in a frost-free refrigerator is not a joke any longer.
Something else very annoying- we wait for the credits at the end of a movie, and the names, running at full speed, are pushed out of view to allow for the more important commercials telling us what's coming up next, thus another commercial between commercials. Where is the Actors Guild when the credits are reduced to unreadable lines? "Ma! Did you see my name?" No! Where was it? While others are left without an answer to who was that guy?
The only uninterrupted programming is Turner Classic Movies, placed to compete with American Movie Classics. But they are both selling programming guides and books. O.K., I can take that.
As of late, due to Digital Cable Technology, government has sent our older T.V. sets to the graveyard of obsolete modern day machinery, which was the newest thing just last year. Maybe I liked my old set. No, warns Big Brother, you'll watch what we tell you to watch, on our choice of set, and you will pay for it, whether you like it or even watch it. As with Equal Opportunity and Wild Card in sports, we have seen the starting elements of Socialism, long before this new wave hit us in the past six months.
As with many fellow viewers, I'd rather be reading or writing, but I will cave and pay for the YES Network to follow my Yankees, and would rather watch Classic Boxing, even though I know the outcome of most bouts.
Our choice of better-then-nothing has become pathetic "Reality TV" which in reality are super-hyped every day life, with the neighbors windows open.Whats great about island survivors hating each other, and heartless mob rule saying so, or family life of people we don't want to know, or gawky over-weight clowns dancing with two left feet, dreamers singing off key because family and friends told them they can, driving the quality of music into a sorry acceptance of the best of the worse. True gifted talent has disintegrated into mostly untalented trash, with a quality percentage of maybe 10% acceptable, after elimination of the runts of the litter. TV. Writers have run out of story lines and plots, rehashing movies you swore you've seen before with different actors.