Our Cultural Attachment to Television

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This coming February 17th, all television broadcasts in the U.S.
will switch to digital. Vermonters who currently receive over-the-air signals
with a pair of rabbit ears will no longer receive a signal. But chances are,
most people already know of the impending change.  The government’s outreach effort has been
huge, with public service announcements made during popular programs, newspaper
ads, and coupons for converter boxes. 

professor of American Studies and Film & Media Culture, Jason Mittell, joins
us to talk about what’s behind this massive outreach effort, and what it says about
our culture’s attachment to the tube. (Listen)

Also, the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association has joined eight
other trade associations and written a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry
Paulson.  They want to discuss the financial
issues faced by heating fuel retailers. We talk with the association’s
Executive Director, Matt Cota, about the letter, and the ups and downs in the
heating fuel market. (Listen)

Also, we visit a Cambridge
winery where frosty temperatures mean it’s time to make ice wine. (Listen)

Emails from listeners–

Email from Tom-

We heeded the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics of no TV for young children. Our TV "broke" about four years ago. Before that our two year old wanted to watch videos before and after school. There is still some limited TV at the sitter’s. We sometimes surf if we’re staying at a hotel but rarely find ANYTHING of interest. I’m amazed how the sitcoms promote antisocial behavior with the stream of insults and just rude behavior on them. Also ads for evening dramas that are aired in the afternoon routinuely have people being blown away. Our sons do come home from the sitter with some knowledge of the ads between the public TV shows but not really knowing what a Chuckie Cheese restaraunt is.  We don’t have time for TV. We read, listen to a lot of music and are physically active.

Lori in Waterville-

I was listening to the program in my car – thinking about how
difficult it is for most people in my town to access not only
television, but the internet and cell phone signals.  Waterville is
situated so that much of the southern sky is blocked by mountains. 
There is no high speed internet, only cell signalf, and no cable
television.  Nearby in Cambridge, Johnson and Eden, other options have
arrived. I am not hopeful that we’ll ever get it.  We’re on the
We are able to tune in to channels locally, but to be honest the
Canadian channels come in the best and offer a great variety of

We purchased a new small HD flat screen digital tv – and the
appropriate digital antennae from an online resource.  It pulls in
nothing at all.  We were assured this new digital antennae would do the
trick.  Still nothing.  When the changeover happens – what happens to
all the old televisions?  I am really irked that I need to consider
buying converter boxes and then find out that there are no digital
signals to receive out here.  Satellite television gets more and more
expensive, there is no competition for them here.  We are seriously
considering just letting it go.  We are paying upwards of $75/mo for
spotty satellite internet, and I think we will keep that instead. 
I wish the powers at be would not assume that we can all just go
out and claim access to the "new" and improved world of television.  It
is very frustrating, it makes those of us in the small towns feel

Hannah in Burlington-

I was raised in the 80s and only allowed PBS until the age of 12. This
left me and my siblings not able to talk about the shows my schoolmates were watching in the evening. This caused many problems with being part of the community. However, my family has finally given into getting satellite tv. This has lead to many conversations about TV as a whole and the content. This week, we had a 4 hour discussion about abortion because a show happened to have an episode about the subject.

The other piece of this is that because I was raised with limited tv access, I now find myself very attached to my shows and my access. If i cannot access it i find myself searching it out online. But I wanted to thank you for this conversation, it has been one we have been having for the last 25 yrs.

Laurie in Colchester-

I grew up without TV in the 70’s and 80’s. My siblings and I spent
a lot of time outside and were all readers. It was interesting to become an
adult, have children and TV in our home and watch classic TV movies such as the Wizard of Oz and Christmas shows like Rudolph for the first time with my kids.  I do not encourage TV in our household now, and watch very little except for news and Antiques Roadshow.

Kelly in Burlington-

When I tell people that I have no TV they look at me like
I come from another planet.
I sometimes feel out of the loop, and completely unhip, never having seen
any of the shows that make up current pop culture.
When I did have access to television I didn’t find the great television
that your guest has suggested is out there.

Email from Jane-

want to say you CAN survive without a TV.  We have not ever had a
television and raised 2 kids who did survive to adulthood without one
(made easier by having friends who were also TV-less).  For news, there
is the radio……..if you need the visual, go to the encyclopedia,
maps, web, etc.
For entertainment, there is the outdoors and books and games and conversation.  

We decided not to have one simply because we didn’t have time to watch
it and didn’t want to have our kids MAKE time.  We always thought, what
would we give up in order to make time for TV?  There was nothing we
did that we thought was worth giving up.

David in Sharon-

I have lived without TV for about 35 yrs. I don’t feel deprived or
uninformed. TV exists to advertise products and that is what drives it. When I do happen to watch I find it idiotic and a waste of time and the advertising is insulting. The idea of TV as a necessity or right, I find foolish and serves the advertising sector.

Ted in Burlington-

I am just concerned that we are moving away from basic first principles, which is to say as someone who doesn’t have a cell phone I am finding it harder and harder to find pay phones and couldn’t find any in Houston while on a business trip last month. People have such an amazing infatuation with TV and there is research coming out that shows flatscreen TVs produce powerful greenhouse gas products. What is so wrong with rabbit ears?



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