Living in semi-rural south central Alaska over the winters can get a bit tiresome especially when we see a lack of snow and cooler temps. Those ‘on the grid’ often resort to television in one form or another to help pass the time although up here your choices are basically satellite transmissions or broadband based. The mountainous terrain pretty much insures ‘over the air’ signals never reach this far north from the Anchorage bowl and the same is true regarding such broadcasts from Fairbanks. Within a month of moving up here I tried to get DirecTV service but was told by one of the only sat TV installers covering this area – ‘Valley Satellite’ who apparently is no longer in business (no surprise!) – I wouldn’t be able to get the service because their birds (satellites) were too close to the horizon at these higher latitudes. It made sense; with most of your customers in the lower 48 you would position your birds to best serve them. I was then offered Dish Network and finally set up with a single dish picking up a bare minimum of standard definition (SD) sat broadcasts. I futzed with this situation for more than a year and finally found a local service that installed two more dishes and gave me the full Dish package with high definition (HD) service on most channels.
I lived with this setup for another three plus years but was never happy with the lack of signal strength; almost any precipitation between here and roughly the Anchorage bowl would either degrade my HD service back to SD or block many channels all together. This wasn’t unexpected as I had to shoot the HD bird at an angle of just 11.5° above the horizon. Given I live within the boreal forest surrounded by trees between twenty and thirty five feet in height finding a location with line of sight to a point just 11.5° off the horizon was almost impossible. If memory serves the ‘best’ angle for a Dish bird was 18° above the horizon which is still very low. But I continued on with the service although seeing my bill increase almost every third month really irritated me especially given the lack of solid signal. I’d been thinking about dropping the service entirely and trying broadband streaming – I hate that euphemism “cutting the cord” because the signal still uses cables to either get into your dwelling or to a Wi-Fi repeater/source – using a Roku and possibly some other provider options. I already had a ‘Netflix’ subscription and was contemplating another service like ‘Sling TV’ or ‘Hulu Plus’. When my bills increased by another $5/month to $119 (this was for Dish’s ‘Top 250’ package alone with a Joey and a Hopper) in early 2018 I decided I’d had enough. While said package might offer 250 channels I watched maybe ten with any regularity and created my own list of perhaps 30 channels which I utilized. So I cancelled my service on Friday, March 2nd. Dish tried to get me to stay by offering me all kinds of savings – like a 40% discount on my current package good for a year – but I was resolute. If they want to keep members why don’t they offer such discounts to ‘members in good standing’ before said members threaten to discontinue service? Simple fact is money; they are fine with raping their subscriber base for as long as they can do so. Even with such a discount at the end of a year the fees would return to their standard amount and given the intervening year’s duration they would probably be higher.
It was impressive how Dish can need days to get one’s new service up and running but can deactivate it when you discontinue service within five minutes! So I began my journey away from television in general. I had plans to get to know my Roku a lot better and add additional services but I found myself watching mainly ‘Netflix’ offerings and DVDs. I assumed this would last for maybe a week and then I’d become dissatisfied with lack of channels and really dig into other options. But, to my surprise, I remained perfectly content with just a few free Roku channels, my Netflix subscription and my DVDs! I have become more familiar with the whole ‘Roku’ world and have started dabbling in the free channels a bit more but mainly I stay with just Netflix and my DVDs. Now I grew up in the ‘TV generation’ beginning with just four broadcast channels (ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS) which then slowly expanded to include some ‘local’ UHF stations. When I moved to Greenville, Illinois for a new job I found I had to try to pull signals from St. Louis which was seventy plus miles to the WSW; I could barely get a couple. But right then – this was 1981 – cable TV was just being added in the neighborhood and I signed up. I continued with cable until 1992 when I moved to an unincorporated western suburb of Chicago; the cable lines stopped within 100 feet of my place but there were no plans to extend them. I could pick up local broadcast channels but after cable this was unacceptable. So I signed up for the fledgling ‘RCA Sat TV’ which soon became ‘DirecTV’; from that point forward I always had sat TV.
My viewing habits varied greatly based upon where I lived and the job I was working but I’d guess I averaged maybe three to four hours a day while ‘gainfully employed’ with this increasing to maybe six to eight hours a day after retirement. I had all but given up on ‘broadcast channels’ in favor of the more specialized channels on sat TV like ‘Science Channel’, The History Channel’, The Military Channel, Nat Geo, The Discovery Channel and similar. Over time these channels changed names and content and I’d drift from one to another and sometimes to ‘new’ channels like ‘The Smithsonian Channel’. Given all this I always figured I’d need a steady source of sat TV or, if unavailable, its cable counterpart. So imagine my current astonishment when I discovered I really don’t miss Dish sat TV at all!! I sure do not miss the $119/month outlay for the lousy reception and highly questionable channel line-up! But now it has been a bit more than two weeks without the service and I’ve discovered something else totally unexpected…
My overall demeanor is much more relaxed and my perspective on life in general has become so much more upbeat and positive. I began to notice this with a few days of discontinuing the service and these effects have continued to grow and develop across the last week. I’m just so much more centered and able to see so much of the ‘good’ in my everyday life. I can only attribute this to the lack of exposure to the endless drumbeat of negativity and ‘over the top’ cacophony spewing forth from the TV. I had largely given up on TV for news as every channel eschewed true journalism for their own agendas; I have a cadre of on-line websites I employ to stay informed. But I would leave the tube tuned to Fox Business Channel in the early morning while doing my initial steps and on and off during the day I might catch some Headline News or similar. Given this I’ve come to understand it wasn’t just the ‘news’ that was degrading my attitude and perspective but all the nonsense that makes up the vast wasteland of broadcast services. Sadly, even ‘good’ channels like ‘The Smithsonian Channel’ and similar still have annoying commercials which can be minimized by the mute button but not completely dismissed.
Across the past week I’ve come to surmise my slowly increasing negativity regarding life in general was being driven by the drivel on the tube; I just never realized its impact and influence upon me until it was gone! Given what I now understand I suspect I will not branch out much regarding my video sources and will continue to decrease the amount of time I spend in front of the tube on any given day. However, I cannot help but be reminded of a song by “Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention” written in 1973 named “I Am the Slime”; it was part of their groundbreaking album “Over-Nite Sensation”. I believe Mr. Zappa fully understood the negative influence of broadcast TV way back then when he penned these lyrics:
“I am gross and perverted
I’m obsessed n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little had changed
I am the tool of the government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you
I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think I’m delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin’ out
From your TV set
You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don’t need you
Don’t got for help…no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold
That’s right, folks..
Don’t touch that dial
Well, I am the slime from your video
Oozin’ along on your livin’ room floor
I am the slime from your video
Can’t stop the slime, people, lookit me go”