By Tony Silber
ten years, but it redefined its role in
our lives. TV has become our eyes
and ears. It determines our reactions,
affects our senses, steers our emo-
tions, sways our opinions, and pre-
determines our thoughts.
Cable, Satellites, and
Space Age Television
Cable is a broad based industry
that meets the needs of a varied au-
dience. It's a total package that of.
fers a lot of different programs to a
lot of different tastes.
- Richard Allen
In 1980 there were approximately
76,000,000 homes with television
sets, according to A.C. Nielsen, the
television market research company.
Today there are more than
91,000,000. There are several rea-
sons for this dramatic increase, but
on the surface they seem confusing.
MTV, ESPN, CNN, WTBS,
CSPAN, VHl, WGN, WOR, A&E,
HBO, FNN, TNN - it never stops.
These countless acronyms are a sign
of one of the most significant
changes in television in the last
decade: cable TV. In 1980, approxi-
mately 4 percent of American homes
had cable television. Today, that fig-
ure is nearly 48 percent and growing.
Mike Duffy, a veteran television
reporter with the Detroit Free Press
thinks cable has been good for tele-
"The cable revolution has given
more options and choices than 10
years ago. The only problem is that
it disenfranchises those who can't af-
ford it. But the cable systems are fi-
nally addressing the needs of those in
the lower socio-economic scale."
Cable can aptly be described as a
revolution - it has invaded our
homes and has become an indispens-
able part of our daily lives. Cable
has also given us a new television
vocabulary. Words like fiber optics,
franchise, superstation, pay TV, de-
scrambler, subscription TV, and
satellite dish are now part of the
television jargon because of the ca-
ble boom in the 1980's.
Let's not be so readily enter-
tained! Give it up! I think we're
about to bring down the curtain on
this society, and it's television
that's doing it.
From every house, apartment,
condo, hotel room, duplex, country
club, tenement and bar; from the
Hugo-ravaged coastal lowlands of the
Carolinas to the quake-shaken Bay
area; from the first glimmer of sun-
light appearing in Maine to the final
moments of a brilliant Hawaii sun-
set, there comes a sound.
As in the biblical story, it is the
sound of babble - psychobabble in
fact, a mixture of strange, wonderful,
and terrible sounds all speaking the
same deranged language but with
very different tongues. Whether it be
the dialects of Star Search, A Cur-
rent Affair, thirtysomething, Mar-
ried with Children or Designing
Women, it is apparent that some-
thing significant has happened to our
nation as we prepare to turn the last
page on a chronicle called the
Throughout this entire country,
our only common language is tele-
vision. But it is much, much more
than a common language. It is our
pillow each night to shed tears into.
It is our punching bag to strike. It is
our dreamworld to escape to and our
unattractive reality to come back to.
Television in the 1980's, in its short
but busy history, was unlike the
"idiot-box" sensation of any other
era. It not only grew up in the last
i ' t/
One of the most amazing devel-
opments of the cable age is the cre-
ation of the specialty "all station."
All news, all sports, all weather, all
music videos, 24 hours a day. With
the push of a button, one can see the
weather forecast for Jackson Hole,
Wyoming, a motocross race in Baja,
California, live coverage of a Senate
Appropriation hearing in Washing-
ton, or Bon Jovi screaming to
50,000 crazed teenagers. Cable has
provided all of these "invaluable"
services to our TV lives, handcuffed
society to an addictive remote con-
trol, and thrown away the key.
The man who holds the keys is
Ted Turner. A dashing southerner
who nurse-fed an infant cable indus-
try into a monster-sized media giant,
Turner is largely responsible for im-
prisoning us in our homes these last
ten years and has glued our eyes to
meaningless, uneducational, pro-
gramming. After all, has Rowdy
Roddy Piper added significantly to
Peggy Charren and Martin San-
dler, television analysts and co-au-
thors of Changing Channels: Living
Sensibly with Television, agree with
Duffy that cable has its benefits.
"When hundreds of channels are
available, scientists can create pro-
grams for scientists, women's
groups for women's groups... In-
f stead of the relentless desperate
search by the producer for the lowest
"Cable encourages another kind
of search, closer to the kinship that
exists in a conversation between
friends, or between essayist and
reader," they write.
The number of average viewing
hours per week has risen sharply in
the last decade, largely due to Turner
and his colleagues. A 1985 Ann Ar-
Drawings and graphics by Kevin Woodson
Page 8 Weekend/November 3,1989