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Kirt Blattenberger (KB3UON)

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Looking Ahead: Pay TV
March 1969 Radio-Electronics

March 1969 Radio-Electronics

March 1969 Radio-Electronics Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Electronics, published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Vintage Pay-TV set top converter box - RF CafeIn the February 1967 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine, editor Forrest Belt wrote about the up-and-coming Pay TV scheme. At the time, nearly everyone received over-the-air (OTA) broadcast programming, and cable TV was getting its beginnings in metropolitan and nearby suburbs. As originally envisioned, Pay−TV would be delivered OTA on allocated frequencies within the UHF band. This 1969 article provides some updated information. Many people were already paying separately for cable television, so Pay−TV targeted the others. Two of the main marketing pitches were no commercials during movies, and availability of shows not presented anywhere else. History has shown that not only will people gladly pay to watch TV programming, but they'll pay for it while also being required to endure an ever-increasing amount of commercials. Access via the Internet has greatly accelerated the "cord cutting" movement not just to telephones, but for music and TV. I'm glad to have kicked the TV habit four decades ago (save for "Numb3rs," "24," and "Chuck"). I just don't have the time to waste on it. Note also that a 2019 Neilson survey reported a "boom" in OTA television viewing in cities.

Looking Ahead: - and Pay TV

Vintage Pay-TV set top converter box.

Ten years ago it would have made big waves. But when the FCC ended 15 years of deliberation by finally approving a nationwide system of pay TV, it created scarcely a ripple. Perhaps this was because every experimental pay-TV system so far has thrown in the sponge - the latest being the Zenith-RKO project in Hartford, Conn., which died Jan. 31, 1968.

Perhaps, too, it is because of the careful restrictions the commission placed on the see-for-a-fee operations it will permit. These circumscriptions, designed to protect conventional free TV, include:

1. The limiting of pay-TV operations to areas served by five or more stations, and then limiting pay operations to only one station in each area. Under these conditions, there would be a maximum of only 89 areas in the United States which could qualify for pay-TV stations.

2. Movies shown on pay TV, with a few exceptions, must be less than 2 years old.

3. Live sports events of the type shown on free TV within the preceding 2 years may not be shown - with the exception of events normally blacked out in a particular area, such as professional football games in the home team's area.

4. Series programs with regular casts are barred.

5. No commercials may be shown during pay programs.

6. Pay-TV stations must also offer free programs at least 28 hours weekly.

7. At least 10 percent of a station's annual pay-TV programing must be devoted to material other than movies and sports.

The FCC withheld judgment on whether it would permit pay TV via cable, but asked the public's views on the subject, in preparation for a future determination.

The Zenith-RKO experimental pay system in Hartford, meanwhile, was shut down after 6 1/2 years - for several reasons, including the necessity of developing pay-TV decoders which will work with color programing. The station has now reverted to its regular free commercial TV operation. R-E



Posted April 25, 2023

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About RF Cafe

Kirt Blattenberger - RF Cafe Webmaster

1996 - 2024


Kirt Blattenberger,


RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

Copyright  1996 - 2026

All trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other rights of ownership to images and text used on the RF Cafe website are hereby acknowledged.

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