“Dreamers”: Cable, The Great American Success Story

Curator's Note

I first saw this video at the 2006 National Show of the National Cable and Telcommunications Association (NCTA). Although I’ve seen quite a few industry produced and promoting videos in the past few years, this one was jaw-droppingly bold in its unflinching support of the cable industry and its mythology of the industry as founded by a “rag-tag group of dreamers.”

I find this piece fascinating on a number of levels. This long version is the richest and likely only played in fora such as the NCTA conference, although the shorter 30-and-60-second versions (available at http://www.ncta.com/ContentView.aspx?ContentID=2681) could have been deployed as part of the cable industry’s public relations effort against the phone companies and their efforts to eliminate local franchise requirements. I’m simultaneously captivated by and critical of the mythology presented here. Indeed, many of the early entrants into cable were daring risk-takers—men such as Ted Turner, John Malone, and many others, whose failure many predicted, yet fundamentally transformed the US television industry. While this may be the story of cable’s origins, this is a hard story to swallow now, as Comcast raises my bill yet again, retransmission feuds among massive conglomerates leave viewers without access to programming, and so much of the future of television is fought out by behemoths (like NCTA) with deep pockets and little concern for the consumer. Lastly, this is a source that even the most novice media critic and pull apart with fair ease.

Comments

Jonathan Gray's picture

The gendering of cable here

The gendering of cable here is amazing — it becomes the good little girl who grew up into a “fleet-footed,” attractive blond jogger, and then becomes the warm, caring, protective mother figure. Meanwhile, the often-absent from the screen (Grampa Rotary doesn’t seem to count), yet invoked male creator figure (and voyeuristic watcher) presides over all. It’s really creepy. And a humorous, if unintended, allusion to Homer Simpson’s “Television: teacher, mother, secret lover” assessment.

It also never ceases to amaze me how all sorts of technology that are being developed a good 10 years ahead of American pace elsewhere in the world get made “American” — Brit and Japanese cable have been doing (interactive) things since at least 2001 that American cable still can’t do. But pardon my heresy against the cult of the Blond American Cable Mother.

Great clip, Amanda

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