During growing up I got used to cable TV. I come from a small town in Central Slovakia and for some reason we had channels in multiple languages from multiple countries. The best movies were always on the German channels, the Pro7, RTL2, RTL. A substitute for MTV was VIVA and than there was Spectrum for documentaries. We actually had twice as many foreign channels - German and Czech than we had local ones. This was actually nice, since I learned more about the World and didn’t feel so isolated. The Slovak landscape back then consisted only of a few stations.
Other than the content I also got used to watching ten minutes of advertisement every half an hour during major films. I thought that this was the way things should be until we got a new computer and internet access sometime around the year 2000. I started browsing the web, exchanging pirated CDs with friends, accessing P2P networks to watch anime, hack and explore, compile and program.
When I moved out and started living alone I never purchased cable for myself, since I thought that it’s more of a time eater, cause you can’t select when to watch a movie and you need to accept all of the repeating and poorly targeted ads. Whenever I come back home to my parents place and watch TV I get annoyed and angry about how I need to search for the right content, wait for it to start, accept all of the clutter that comes with it. For me it became a late night opium or a background noise more than a source of information and entertainment. Although I tell all of this I owe cable the fact that I can speak fluently German and English. The TV as a visual medium has helped me more than anything else, much more than school I should add. I learned programming at home on my computer and foreign languages through years of being radiated. That was about all that I needed to make money after I finished high school. I owe the internet that I know how to write a meaningful piece of text and to express myself. In fact the internet learned me how to present myself - it’s an interactive medium after all. What we miss today with cable is that we cannot interact with it. We cannot add comments onto the screen directly or go on a different page of the same channel while ads. We got so hooked up on liberty and freedom of the internet that we don’t accept anything else and that’s a good thing.
All in all a visual medium is needed for our society, but the way it’s brought to us, the way we consume it evolves.
During the last years I made the false assumption that people would be willing to buy a proprietary and expensive second screen embedded into for example a table. I embraced the concept of the touch table, but with the emergence of the iPad and other tablets this idea has become obsolete and I don’t think it makes much sense for the home user to buy a large interactive screen he needs to position in the centre of the room for several thousand dollars. The second screen should be more universal and cheaper than that.
My family, my mother and my grandfather both purchased Magio - a local IPTV box and service that is a kind of a substitute for their old cable. The problem is that this system, although being more expensive than their old subscription isn’t used by them as IPTV, but still as cable, which is actually ridiculous. My grandpa was convinced by a door to door salesman to purchase it and now he has a few boxes more near to his TV - a modem and a system to transfer the digital signal to his old hardware using SD. This is quite a ridiculous usage of a digital signal. My mom does the same, although they also purchased the internet as a separate part, although also in a ridiculous manner. Although their channels are streamed, they watch all the ads as they did during their cable days (now they have optics) spending tens of gigabytes of data, they only got around two gigabytes for actually growing the web. If they surpass it they pay heavily. You can even expect ten euros a Month per gigabyte in Slovakia if you surpass these caps.
It amazes me how easily non informed people can be deceived. My mom calls the WiFi router the internet, although they don’t connect any wireless devices she believes that it must be on. My grandpa didn’t know that he had a modem with ethernet plugs on one of the boxes behind his old TV. My opinion is that the local door to door salesman of these systems steal money from older people. I’m very disappointed by that.
Such ways must stop.
It breaks my heart to see my family be deceived and need to pay more for services they don’t understand or utilise to the fullest. I’m not saying that my grandpa must browse the web, but I’m saying that for him it didn’t make sense to purchase a more expensive service for an old box. Another thing I’m saying is that if my mom uses a few dozen gigabytes of data for her plasma TV, than why does she have a two gigabytes cap on her internet, which is part of the bundle she uses from the same company.
You cannot argue, you cannot explain, the nice looking people from Orange or T-Mobile ‘T-Com’ are always right. They know what’s best for you. They know what black boxes you need to connect to your TV. They know how much you should pay and the young man who is me mustn’t be asked, he’s not part of these companies of experts. So I continue looking at my family being screwed over and over.
What I’m waiting for is that the companies with these practices will adapt and will be pushed by the new generation of cord cutters, the young people who understand all the services. But this will take time, maybe a decade. I’m working with local TV channels in Slovakia, we help to get them onto the internet and into mobile, since they were absolutely left behind by the larger streaming services and they face extinction. Here we have a hard time too, since many of the operators of these small channels don’t understand the changing ways. The media agencies are acting alike, as they only rely on the few large stations in cable and IPTV. They don’t want to discuss online or mobile advertisement and the largest players actually laugh you out when you approach them. Again these people will be stumbled over by new technology not being introduced from within my country, but from the West, because the notion is that a western company is always better than a small local service provider like me. In any case - it’s a struggle, but I still believe that it’s worth fighting, cause in the end we’ll win.
In some way the attitude of older people is a parasite left over by the decades of the socialist rule, when the state took care of everything for you. Our parents view the large multinational companies, the operators, banks the same way they viewed the government. Their letters have the same value as those from the court. The people coming to check on how much gas or electricity your apartment uses or the technicians who install electronics in your homes are to be admired, feared and respected. They aren’t being questioned.
A smart man once said that the transition from a totalitarian system, from communism takes sixty years. We’re now in the third decade and I actually do really believe that it will take another three decades for people to learn that they have more rights. Or actually, as sadly as it sounds, the society will change once our old folks will no longer be here and people of my generation show their stand.
So in my opinion the multinational companies, the cable operators, door to door sales people have a better ground in countries who have a totalitarian past or who’s people are more obedient to authorities.
It really breaks my heart to see my parents be screwed by the government, the multinational companies, the local goons and the media. They don’t question these for a minute.
We can’t give up. We must question and build a better society and demand services which we actually want, not accept something being spoon fed to us while being blind folded!