Awesome anti-cable ad from the 1970s compares Pay TV to monsters

"Let your lawmakers know how you feel in the fight against Pay TV and Cable TV!" (Thanks Scott!)


  1. The part that cable television forgets to mention is that originally, the way they were able to get America to allow them to use up all those public resources to let them run their wires all over creation was by promising, among other things, the following:

    -providing and maintaining a public access channel for every community
    -offering niche television channels that more accurately cater to viewers’ interests
    -offering commercial-free television, since their funding comes out of your monthly bill.

    So here we are in present-day-land.

    -a good chunk of cable access channels have been marginalized / cut budgets; cable tv companies continue to lobby the U.S. government to significantly reduce or eliminate public access
    -The History Channel has shows about ghosts, Animal Planet isn’t about animals, and Sci Fi is SyFy is wrestling.
    -Commercial-free television? The % of commercials per hour has increased, not decreased.

    Yes, I agree with the cartoon.

    1. Some valid points, but what about, for example, HBO? That channel (and other networks taking it’s lead) is responsible for virtually all the good television produced in America (bar the odd exception).

      In contrast, American network TV has added little value to human culture. It’s easy to understand why, they have to cater for the lowest common denominator, while cable tv can cater for any market it thinks it can make money from, much wider scope for taking risks on original content. Would shows like The Wire, or The Sopranos, ever have seen the light of day if there was only network tv?

      Pay-tv isn’t free from this, as you’ve pointed out, crap about ghosts and pseudoscience taking over channels originally aimed at a more specialised audience. But at least you don’t have to pay for it if you’ve no interest in it.

      1. Yes, if cable was like HBO, of course they would have more of a leg to stand on. But HBO is one tiny slice of the cable pie, which gets lauded because they’re the only example of quality anyone can find, so it’s always “The Sopranos” etc. etc. etc. I respect HBO for what they’ve put out there- but HBO is not cable.

        Ironically, when the guy who started HBO came up with the idea, he was laughed at by everyone, including other cable folk.

        1. Except “The Sopranos” was juvenile crime-boss wish-fulfillment crap marketed to decadent amoral white trash.

          Oh, was I not supposed to say that? HERESY!

          Sorry, there’s some fine acting there, but little or no other merit. TV is so abysmally bad that shows like “The Sopranos” simply seem good by comparison. HBO is just slightly less smelly crap than NBC, and even PBS is getting worse with the constantly increasing commercials (that aren’t called commercials – did I commit heresy again? if it shills oil companies it’s a commercial). TV is a vast wasteland, reflecting the corrosion of American culture and values rather effortlessly.

          1. “Sorry, there’s some fine acting there, but little or no other merit”

            nonsense, the acting was great of course, but it was also brilliantly written. okay, it got a little labored in the last few seasons, but it was the closest thing you yanks have come to “I, Claudius”, so you should be proud.

          2. ” “Would shows like The Wire, or The Sopranos, ever have seen the light of day if there was only network tv?”

            Of course not. But I acknowledged that, and pointed out that these shows are such a rare thing that they don’t come close to justifying the amount of shit that the tv industry has pumped out since the 1950’s. If you want to compare “cultural damage” vs “cultural edification” I think the winner is clear, by a landslide.

            I agree with the other Anon- the Sopranos is a sad excuse for “great” and only stands out because everything else is so shitty. It had great moments early on and that’s about it.

        2. HBO isn’t the only one though, recently we’ve seen the likes of Weeds and Dexter on Showtime, Mad Men and Breaking Bad on AMC, BSG on SciFi (though aside from that, they’re pretty awful), even FX has had some good stuff (though slightly lower brow) with The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, plus a lot of the Adult Swim stuff on Cartoon Network…

          But still, you seemed to ignore my main question: “Would shows like The Wire, or The Sopranos, ever have seen the light of day if there was only network tv?”

          NB: I live in Ireland, so my judgment of these things may be a little off, but even from over here it seems obvious that there’s a lot more quality coming out of the cable end of things than free to air network television (which seems to be mostly about regurgitated sitcoms and reality tv, with most of the prime time drama of a pretty low standard too).

  2. Man, I kind of wish I had been adult during the days when movie theatres would have petitions available in the lobby.

    There’s also a great one I saw that was a drive-in railing against the introduction of daylight savings.

  3. The funny thing is that I wish I could pay a monthly fee for an HBO-like channel that produced good SciFi. Heck, I paid for Showtime when they aired Stargate which shows my level of desperation.

  4. When I was a kid I used to go to the Plaza Twin Drive-In of Braintree, MA (now a parking lot, sadly). During the intermission of the double-feature (all shows were such) they would play this commercial. I haven’t seen this in 30 years. Thanks, BB!

  5. This is how i grew up … TV was free … basically .. my parents had to pay a minor ‘public’ charge .. and commercials were very limited (so were shows from abroad) … there were never any ads DURNING the program ….

    And I very much agree to the point … i would love to pay a bit extra to bring shows like ‘firefly’ back .. but my problem is that is am all over the planet and I never played the Nielsen video game …

    Just how aware are Nielsen families about their impact? Any input on that Craig?

  6. Interesting but it doesn’t hold a candle to the “VD is for everybody” clip linked off it.
    It’s hard to keep your attention on a boring subject like cable vs. free to air broadcasting when there are babies with the clap out there. I think this explains much about public discourse in the ’70s.

  7. No mention of who was behind this?

    It’s a four letter organization we know, M-P-A-A and theater owners. They didn’t want people to be able to stay at home to watch movies.

    At the time the theater marquees had “Fight PAY TV!” on them. In Chicago they lobbied Duh Mare the city council which delayed cable TV for over decade. Most other major U.S. cities and about all of the suburbs of Chicago had cable many years before the city of Chicago did.

    Acting like “Pay TV” meant that you’d have to PAY TO GET TV! is very much like how right now they’re claiming that “Net Neutrality” means speech on the net has to be neutral with guvmint control – as “bad” as the Fairness Doctrine.

  8. . . . and while you’re in the lobby signing the petition to keep you from being able to see movies on HBO at home why not take out a second mortgage and buy some popcorn and sodas?

    Sometimes both sides are villians.

  9. Wasn’t there also a scheme that the broadcasters had come up with to use the public airwaves for pay-per-view tv? They would broadcast a scrambled signal over a regular channel and you could call to pay and get it descrambled.

    1. Yeah. That Pay TV on OTA stations happened.

      It was called ON TV by us in Chicago. There was a single channel feed that used UHF channel 44 and there were lotsa pirate descrambler boxes to get it for free. A geeky kid could watch the scrambled picture on any TV to try to catch part of a necked boobie going by.

      It was $19.95 for that one channel!

      As it says in this Wikepedia article the above movie theatre fueled Chicago hold-off of cable TV helped those guys.

      1. We had ON TV in Scottsdale as well. I also remember this announcement from my childhood. Cable’s got its ups and downs…

      2. But more importantly, you could use the fine tuning wheel on your VCR to ‘unscramble’ the image. There was no sound, and the image would sometimes slip back to its scrambled format, but for a little while it would work.

        Um…at least that’s what someone once told me…

  10. But the monsters in my favorite horror movies are often on the TV in my living room.

  11. My mother used to talk about pay TV in the same terms that she used for the USSR.

  12. I seem to remember the rationale for pay TV a.k.a. cable was that by paying you wouldn’t have to look at ads. Broadcasters needed ads because that was their only source of revenue, but pay-TV operators wouldn’t have to compromise that way.

    And the rationale for buying CDs (with their much-higher price) over vinyl was that CDs were indestructible, and you could buy them once and play them forever.

  13. What’s really remarkable about this spot is how little in-house movie spots and promos have evolved in the past 40 years. They’re all laughable where I live (Maine): insanely-poor computer animation, tawdry music.

    There’s one at our local ‘art house’ which is now worn pretty much to shreds and features ‘pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope” as backdrops to fizzy soda and the like. At the end, a spiral nebula’s center gapes open very very anally and people’s trash goes zooming into it while the world’s most hackneyed tritone jabbers at you from the score.

    Monsters? I got your monsters, right here at the Nickelodeon.

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