By Jim Lee
How many of us remember “pay TV?”
Probably the closest ancestor to cable service, the concept of pay TV was simple: Subscribe for a small monthly fee to improve reception and get rid of commercials, maybe even get an uninterrupted movie now and then.
The best part of it was getting rid of commercials. Not as many commercials interrupted shows back then, but we didn’t like them then any more than we like them now. Considering the level of programming these days, maybe the commercials are better than the shows — excluding PBS of course, not that I’m biased.
Unfortunately, the quality of commercials gets buried in the volume of them bombarding us. I once counted 13 commercials on one of the breaks in a show. OK, they sometimes run 30 seconds instead of a full minute when a bunch of them assault us en masse.
Even at that, we have 6 1/2 minutes of pitches, and the actual number (regardless of time duration) can numb our senses to the point of near-zombiedom.
The syndicated, local and network shows are bad enough, but what about those cable channels? When I say cable, I include satellite service, and I do not mean any particular cable company or provider.
Cable is just an easy label for all the non-broadcast programs. Well, these cable channels, unlike the all-too-brief reign of pay TV, seem to include more commercials than the broadcasters. Whenever I click the remote control through the channels to see what’s on because the printed listings (from any source) make no sense, I get virtually nothing but commercials on every channel. How am I supposed to know what program is playing?
Now, not even that mass of commercials seems to satisfy the hype and greed mentality of television. We have commercials on the bottom of the screen while the actual program is on. At the end we can’t see the credits because they’re squeezed halfway off the screen by even more commercials.
So what if a lot of folks don’t necessarily read all the credits — sometimes we want to see who that actor was whose face we can’t quite place, where something was filmed, etc. Besides, we should be able to decide for ourselves whether to read the credits or not.
As if this ain’t enough, friends and neighbors, what about those infomercials? Putting up with commercials, although fewer would be nice, is what we pay to watch the boob tube, right? Well, on top of that, plus paying a monthly fee for those extra channels, we get to watch programs that are commercials in themselves, bought and paid for by marketing hypesters just like regular commercials.
As consumers we get the privilege of paying to have enough channels for the TV to be worth switching on. Then we have stacks of commercials on top of that, and some of those channels we pay for are “home shopping” operations (another kind of commercial).
Why not put the infomercials on those home shopping channels so we viewers can choose to watch or not? Why not charge advertisers more for commercials (being a tax write-off for them anyway) in return for not running as many of them? If they balk at that, we have some nice video/DVD rental stores in Portales. Make TV a matter of IF we watch TV, not just a matter of WHAT we watch.
Better yet, we can actually pay attention to our kids or even pick up a book.
Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: