This curious advertisement has been floating around since 1964. Titled “Keep TV Free,” it paints a dire picture of a future with only pay television and asks the citizens of California to become involved. So what was happening in California at that time deemed so threatening to free television?
The advertisement refers to a nearly forgotten chapter in television history: a pay television service sold by Subscription Television, Inc., more commonly known as STV. STV was headed by Sylvester (Pat) Weaver, previously the chairman at NBC. Weaver was responsible for many television milestones at NBC, including the creation of the “Today” show and “participation advertising,” the practice of networks selling advertising within shows. In the early 1960’s, he became interested in creating a pay television service to potentially rival the networks. STV began wiring up houses in San Francisco and Los Angeles with plans to ultimately expand the service nationwide.
Will free over-the-air broadcast television in the United States soon become a thing of the past? That prospect would have seemed impossible to me not too long ago, but I wonder if it is what the future holds.
Last year, EchoStar announced the TR-40, their $40 digital converter box. It had the best feature set of any converter box and the $40 price made it free with government coupon. But then the TR-40 was postponed and the DTVPal was released, a different converter box that EchoStar priced at $59.99. The TR-40 remained a separate product that they promised for later release.
Judging from the number of emails I have received on the subject, there seems to be quite a lot of interest in building your own UHF antenna for HDTV reception. I’ve discussed this topic a few times in the past, but here are some resources for prospective antenna builders.
There were persistent rumors before the DTVPal digital converter box was released on June 26 that DISH Network had already signed up Sears and Radio Shack as national distributors. But neither chain sold the DTVPal after the introduction. The DTVPal remained available only through the official DTVPal website and through some smaller, local retailers.