Anti-cable TV campaign, circa 1970


24 Responses to “Anti-cable TV campaign, circa 1970”

  1. paul beard says:

    A plague on both their houses… “free” teevee comes with a cost, as each hour of primetime can include 41% advertising. And I’m old enough to remember when the promise of cable was that the programming had no ads, unlike OTA broadcasting. Now the cable operators charge the subscriber for the service, charge the content provider to be part of a specific package of channels, and also have their own ads. And all while enjoying monopoly privileges in most places they operate. Surprised they have enough pockets to stuff the cash into … 

    More and more convinced the TV license model makes the most sense: send a fee to a central fund and have it used to create quality content that doesn’t rely on ratings for survival. This is the model that gave us Monty Python and the Hitchhikers Guide: need I say more? 

    We could easily remake the Corporation for Public Broadcasting here in the US following the same model by taking a small percentage of the revenues from the for-profit broadcasters to fund public broadcasting. And as the telcos and cable monopolies branch into other markets (telcos offering TV programming and cable providing offering phone service), regulators should be pushing the price of their basic service closer and closer to $0, as they seem to be stretching their monopoly grants further than they ought to. 

    • SHeadius says:

      need I say more? 

      Very much so.

    • SamSam says:

      More and more convinced the TV license model makes the most sense: send a fee to a central fund and have it used to create quality content that doesn’t rely on ratings for survival.

      So the definition of “quality content” becomes only what this “central fund” decides is quality, and not necessarily what anyone wants to watch?

      • AnthonyC says:

         Just to flesh out the idea: I expect ratings would still matter, but less so- assuming it’s a public or government-run organization.

        It seems to work very well for the BBC. Also, it wouldn’t  need to *replace* the ratings system, just supplement it.

      • Brother Phil says:

        It seems to do quite well for the BBC; their main argument for the License Fee is that they can take a chance on big projects that are too risky for commercial broadcasters. These often turn out to be big successes.

      • paul beard says:

        And this is different from the current model how? Right now, mainstream programming is chosen by soap makers, car manufacturers, fizzy soda pop marketeers, etc. Is American Idol or The Real Housewives of [Your Town Here] really the apotheosis of culture? 

        The tone of the question makes it clear that no amount of science programming —written and presented by scientists! — or performances with a large but geographically dispersed audience would pass muster. Obviously, no responsible programming committee would put programs on that no one watched, at least not more than once. So there would be some ratings or evaluation component. But in nation of 300 million, I expect there are a lot of underserved groups who, even with access to cable or satellite providers, given their revenue focus, can’t find anything worth their time. 

        As noted by a couple of other comments, this seems to work for the BBC which also earns back some of the development costs of those programs by exporting them the US for broadcast on — wait for it — the public broadcasting channels. 

        • Arthur V.* says:

          plus, the BBC IS a public broadcaster.

        • SamSam says:

          Right now, mainstream programming is chosen by soap makers, car manufacturers, fizzy soda pop marketeers, etc. Is American Idol or The Real Housewives of [Your Town Here] really the apotheosis of culture?

          That first sentence is nonsense - soap makers and car manufacturers care only about the size of the audience. It’s extremely rare for ads to be pulled because they don’t like the content if the content is generating large ratings. The ratings — the number of eyes on the screen — is still what’s driving the content.

          The second sentence is implying what half the other commentators here are openly saying “Obviously the Hitchhiker’s Guide is more quality than the crap ‘the masses’ like, like American Idol or The Real Housewives of Lollapalooza.”

          What elitist BS! So everyone who has a TV ought to have to pay the government for the production of sci-fi shows that no one wants to watch? Because supposedly that’s “higher culture?”

          But guess what? With the cable model, you have –or ought to have — a method of getting HGTG-clones made! If 10% of the nation wants to see something, stick it on channel 9809, call it “The British Shoestring Productions,” and have the people who want to watch it pay for it! I’ll be first in line because I love HGTG!

          … of course, the modern system of bundling cable channels into packages and preventing you from buying them individually makes this harder. But it’s still a better system than forcing my Aunt Franny, who just wants to The Bachelorette, to have to pay for Red Dwarf.

          • paul beard says:

            Yes, ad buyers care about the size of the audience: I don’t believe I said anything to the contrary. So the cheapest schlockiest crap is what gets aired, because even in this era of hundreds of channels and multiple delivery systems, “free” tv, paid for with your eyeballs, rules. 

            I don’t have any expectation things will change and I wouldn’t watch the box if it did: it’s not part of my life. Not sure how sci-fi shows are all that the BBC is known for (David Attenborough, please pick up the blue courtesy phone): local PBS affiliate schedules are full of other BBC shows that are not sci-fi. Or is the Vicar of Dilbey so fantastic it counts as sci-fi? 

            My argument was that between “free” tv that answers to advertisers, rather than viewers, and cable which operates as a monopoly yet still manages to separate subscribers, content providers, and advertisers from their money, there may be another option. We own the airwaves and employ the people who are supposed to regulate them. And the municipalities to which we pay taxes have the power to regulate the cable monopolies. 

            But that’s fine. So long as we don’t have elitists doing their best to “inform, educate and entertain.” 

    •  The TV license model you describe may have given us Monty Python, but it can also lead to nothing but snooker championships on all 4 channels, as I discovered on a trip to London in 1985,

      And yes, I can still remember it was Dennis Taylor who won the championship.

      • paul beard says:

        In 1985, the BBC only carried two channels, BBC One and Two as best I can recall. BBC Three didn’t arrive til almost 20 years later (2003, based on what I can find, anyway). So if ITV and Channel 4 were also carrying that, it must have been popular ;-) 

        The point is not that BBC is the only model for how television is programmed or paid for, but that there are other models than a purely ratings-based model, which doesn’t offer a lot of quality cultural programming and is the basis for the “if it bleeds, it leads” news model. 

        Could the following be said of any of US broadcaster? “The […] Charter specifies that the mission of the Corporation is to “inform, educate and entertain”. It states that the Corporation exists to serve the public interest and to promote its public purposes: sustaining citizenship and civil society, promoting education and learning, stimulating creativity and cultural excellence …” etc. 

  2. Jay says:

    Take out “TV” and add “Website” and the video will be up to date. Seems history is repeating itself.

  3. The Regency cinemas in NYC have been ads before movies that are not dissimilar in theme. 

    The bit starts out as a montage of generic action movie scenes. Slowly the screen shrinks in size, until it’s the approximate dimensions of a widescreen television; the sound quality getting worse as it goes. Finally, a television does appear and the tag line, something to the effect that it’s a crime to watch “big” movies on a “small” screen. 

    I get that they’re trying to promote theater-going, but it’s so blatant and not representative of a prime home theater experience. I can’t help but get angry. Arguing with a commercial in a crowded theater just gets you threats though, so I’m here telling you. 

    • AnthonyC says:

      Slowly the screen shrinks in size, until it’s the approximate dimensions
      of a widescreen television; the sound quality getting worse as it goes.

      Hah, if only I could find a movie theater with a sound system that could compete with even a halfway decent home system. Really, the only reason to see in theaters is to get to see it a few months sooner. Rarely is that worth it for me.

    • Clumpy says:

      Well, I hope the video quality at least got better during the transition to the “home theater” experience. Projection theaters are often notably sub-DVD in quality.

  4. wizardru says:

    I’m pretty sure this is from the early 1970s, but not 1970 itself.  HBO didn’t really go national until around 1973 and cable television had been around for decades by that point.  Cable TV didn’t really take off in a big way until 1975-1976.  I remember being one of the first families in the neighborhood to get it.  We had six channels and HBO.

  5. wizardru says:

    I should also comment this is even more interesting in light of the fact that when I went to see Cowboys and Aliens a couple of weeks ago, they showed the spiritual successor to this video: an advertisement by the movie companies trying to belittle watching movies at home on HDTV and home theaters.  It seemed desperate and sad, really.  The size of the screen is only a tiny part of the movie-going experience and it seems to me to be missing the things that DO make movies in the theater compelling and ignores the problems that theaters have.

  6. This ad trailer is amazing, I showed it as part of a pre-show trailer reel at a film presentation I did a while back!

  7. Now ATT and Verizon are now the evil Corporations that  want to buy more Spectrum from TV Brodcasters

  8. Jardine says:

    I noticed that they separated Pay TV and Cable TV. Could the “Pay TV” actually be referring to a system that was used in some markets where they broadcast a scrambled signal over the air? You’d pay a monthly fee to have a decoder box.

  9. nosehat says:

    The strategy: present its own prime product—movies for mature audiences—as something no-one would want to see at home.

    That’s not actually the strategy of the ad.  They are saying it would be monstrous to have to pay for TV that ought to be free.  Pay TV is thus “a monster” which nobody wants in their living room. 

    They aren’t saying monster movies wouldn’t or shouldn’t be on TV.  Monster movies were broadcast all the time.

    Of course the underlying motive for the ad was a fear that cable tv (and the VCR) would erode ticket sales.  Specifically, people would choose to see the theaters’ “own prime product” at home rather than the theater.

  10. BookGuy says:

    I, for one, welcome our hexagonal prism overlords.

  11. Like this post if you saw this first on TV Carnage.

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