Remember the twisty knobs?!? By Sam.Jackson on Flickr

Remember the twisty knobs?!? By Sam.Jackson on Flickr

My Dad is a wise man, but when it comes to TV I tend to believe that I’m the one with the knowledge.  (Want to snake a drain or do taxes properly? Go to him! Need to know the name of the third episode of Buffy in season four? Go to me, man!) So, when he started talking to me about how TV might not be available ‘free’ anymore (read: only through cable packages) I laughed him off. I’m a child of the 80’s and I’ve never known a time without TV. Which is unlike my Dad, who went from no TV, to black and white TV, to colored TV, and one of these days he might just get a flat screen TV… (He’s wise, but gravely frugal.)

While I have lived with those old TVs that had those little twisty knobs to change channels, I’ve never not had a TV. Even when we went camping (note to self: see about buying a hammock) we had a tiny battery powered TV to keep us company (granted – it was black and white, and the screen was about 2″ x 2″).

It’s fair to say I might take TV’s presence in my life for granted. Like many, I always want more of  good thing. I was thinking there should be TV content online for free way before we even had Youtube. It just seemed natural! And being the greedy TV-watcher than I am…I really wanted it. I couldn’t understand why it hadn’t happened yet. Now that I do have it, I have to accept that other changes might come.

I say this after reading a piece by Andrew Vanacore for for Associated Press. Because of DVRs, streaming sites, and other avenues, TV isn’t making as much money via commercials.

The changes could mean higher cable or satellite TV bills, as the networks and local stations squeeze more fees from pay-TV providers such as Comcast and DirecTV for the right to show broadcast TV channels in their lineups. The networks might even ditch free broadcast signals in the next few years. Instead, they could operate as cable channels — a move that could spell the end of free TV as Americans have known it since the 1940s.

Maybe it’s fine. But maybe it’s not. Many America’s don’t pay for cable TV as they can’t afford it, or only want the most basic of stations (read: news). They rely on their free TV. Think about how many people had trouble making the switch to Digital TV with those converter boxes. I think we’re overestimating the population at large to adapt, and to adapt well. While lots of people I know can easily move with the progress – most of those people are age 30 or under. While young people expect and want change, older people want stability. (I actually want stability too, mostly! I’m an old soul that way, duh.)

The problem as I see it is that other people have found ways to take away money from the TV networks. Do they see us as punishing them by giving our time/money/attention to sites like Hulu.com? And in turn, will they punish us by forcing our loyalty through paying more money to keep what we had? It seems that both sides (Internet content and TV networks) want more money. The one’s who will be suffering are the TV watchers who just want their shows.

And it’s not just TV-based operations,  every market seems to be trying to take advantage of their situation.  Sites like Youtube and Livejournal now having ads (that you must watch to get to your content) when before they didn’t.

The same thing has been happening for a long time with online written content vs. magazines and newspapers. Several people employed via newspapers have lost their jobs, magazines like Domino have gone out of business, and subscriptions have gone down for just about everything. Actual video stores are probably all almost extinct because of Netflix. Businesses are trying to adapt – Nylon magazine is now distributed digitally – but maybe not fast enough.

What’s next? With books being offered on Amazon Kindle (and knock-off’s like it), will the book market have a similar strain? Is all of this technology starting to pay a higher price than we bargained for? When do the cylons start eating our brains and life resemble the plot of that movie Eagle Eye!?!?! (Note: I don’t know anything about cylons, other than they’re from the future.)

We’re going to feel the loss of the things we soi thoughtlessly took for granted – books to actually hold and smell, newspapers delivered to our doors, magazines to cut-out from and make totally awesome collages from, free TV… Progress won’t stop. Adapting seems the only answer.  And if you don’t want to adapt, I have no clue what you can do. Maybe you can embrace the Amish wa of life?



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