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