Saturday, December 09, 2006

What's the DISH on Distant TV Networks and Satellite TV?

— or — some days they can send my satellite TV DIRECTly to Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire!

In the beginning ...

God created fire and he saw that it was good.

And people sat around their portable fires in their caves or outside their dwellings and talked, telling stories and singing with their families.

Later ...

Man invented the radio. And he thought it was very good. Eventually, the electric box brought Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Lone Ranger and even the NBC Orchestra into his home.

Then, he invented television. And, not sure what to put on it, he filmed Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly and The Lone Ranger. The classical music didn't go over too well, so he played that on Sunday afternoons. But Dick Clark found out that popular music could draw an audience when vivacious teens danced on camera. So, "American Bandstand" and a host of imitators were created.

Americans loved quantity more than quality, so man said, "If half a dozen channels on TV are good, 30 or even 130 channels would be better." (He didn't care what he put on those channels, just as long as there were more and more channels filled with the same stuff and different people.)

So, cables were strung from high towers and even the tops of lofty mountains, down into the valleys so people could receive many more channels. It was the same drivel, but static and snow on the picture were reduced.

Then man saw people would pay a monthly price for their cable-TV and man thought, "Aha! What if we could provide people far out in the country with hundreds of channels and charge them each month for their reception?"

And man invented satellite television.

But there was a problem called the FCC -- the Federal Communications Commission.

One day, in a move to protect local network TV stations and, perhaps, cable TV companies, the FCC passed a ruling (i.e. the same thing as a law for all intents and purposes). The ruling said, "Thou shalt not offer distant networks to people who receive signals from satellite TV."

And DISH satellite customers became very wroth.

People in Brazil, Ind., received conflicting information from DISH network (Direct TV did not carry local channels). Some people were told, "You won't be affected. You will still get ABC-TV from WRTV in Indianapolis." Others were told, "Yes, you will lose your ABC channel from Indianapolis."

Then Dec. 1 came and people in Brazil lost both WRTV-6 (ABC) and WTHR-13 (NBC) from Indianapolis.

And the DISH technical support people promised TV antennas would be installed on their customers' houses free of charge, so those people could receive Indianapolis TV, free of charge. But the DISH people forgot why cable-TV was invented -- that normal antennas don't pull in distant TV stations very well.

So, DISH operators called their customers in Brazil and said, "We'll have to buy better antennas for you -- make an appointment for a few months down the road."

The future hasn't' been written yet, but I would not be surprised if one day I read in The Brazil Times:

"Wife calls 911 when her husband tears out their TV equipment, starts fire in the back yard, and begins singing."

Thank goodness for books and libraries! (and newspapers!)

Frank Phillips is The Times editor. He can be e-mailed at — assuming his e-mail is working.