When television was in its infancy, the little box with the vacuum tube screen televised variety shows, comedies, dramas and episode adventures that were based on the shows of its radio predecessor. Now look at how far the visual media has been stretched and expanded by expanded channels, the streaming services, and the range of devices that can serve them. The concept of broadcast has changed to making all its content formats portable and mobile.
In the early days, the networks filled about 12 hours a day of national news and television shows. The remaining 6 hours of “On-Air” time for any channel was filled with variable programming for children’s shows, for fitness guru Jack La Lane, for shows like “Girl Talk” with Virginia Graham (the 60’s version of “the Voice”). Thus began the rise of the local affiliate networks, who occasionally produced something that was well liked elsewhere and circulated among the regional broadcast centers for filler. Most people now wouldn’t recognize the off-air screen display that told you that you’d fallen asleep with the TV on (yeah, people did that then too). Every day would start at 5 or 6am with an image of the U.S. Flag and a patriotic music piece.
Now there are really no stations that sign off the air because every minute of the 24-hour day is occupied on all 100-200-or extended channels that are part of your package. Admittedly some of those hours dedicated to sales of coins, knives, vacuums or blenders, but you’d have to have watched to know that. OFF AIR messages are rare, NO SIGNAL is more common but we all know that means you easily lost your complete connection (satellite dish, receiver, etc.) or that your forgot to pay your cable service bill.
Look at the value that we have now, you can buy a television capable of receiving up to 999 channels in the 18-23″ screen size for less than the GE console shown in the old advertisement. You might also be able to get a stream-capable smart phone for close to the same amount. All the media connections are what cost the money, and that’s over the life of the product and its use.
I know what I spend per month on the excess services: WIFI for two devices, premium service cable for the television, CBS network access to archive footage and shows, Netflix (better with my wifi carrier), History Channel special archives, wireless phone service with phone purchase plan and that totals about $240 per month. From all that, I get to re-watch one of the greatest historical shows produced that isn’t a documentary (Vikings), catch up on all the ongoing and short-lived series that were adult and different (Orange is the New Black), see some great foreign made films that don’t play in cineplex type theaters, I watch shows that I couldn’t access when they aired originally (Dexter), and I get to re-examine footage from CBS news and catch missed episodes of Criminal Minds. I did try Amazon Prime for 30 days and enjoyed watching Hannibal, HBO’s ROME and Deadwood, along with a few movies, I simply had conflict with the streaming in my environment. Truth be told, if you don’t have a device or a carrier, you don’t miss it that much, but once you get the services it’s very easy to see the “binge” potential of certain programs.
One network deserves the credit over all others because they have kept pace with the 7 by 24 show formatting. They offer an incredible range of program types, produce shows to satisfy all ages, and offer a FREE streaming service online. That of course is PBS (Public Broadcasting System) and they are funded by the public’s donations. There’s no greater media resource for inspiration, education, and quality production drama that comes with so little cost.
Sign-up for the PBS viewing service requires a name and email and they do not send many emails at all. The show selection catalog is vast for NOVA, POV, Nature, The American Experience and Great Performances. Visit pbs.org to sign up and try their free viewing.
Now, after you find out which character is “off’d” in The Walking Dead season opener, you should treat yourself to a dose of PBS.