“Dreamers”: Cable, The Great American Success Story
by Amanda Lotz — University of Michigan
March 26, 2007 – 15:02
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.
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