TV Is Still Free

by Mike Martz on December 14, 2013

A few weeks ago I had a call from a Bethel resident asking me how much KYUK charged for TV programming.  I told her KYUK programs are available over the air for free.

I had never been asked that question before.  I wondered if some people, like that caller, believe that all TV is pay TV.

I recall, as do many others my age who grew up in the lower 48, when there were only three commercial television networks in America: NBC, CBS and ABC.  Their programs were broadcast across the country by local affiliate TV stations for free.  PBS came into being in the early 1970’s delivering educational programming broadcast by a network of noncommercial member stations, including KYUK here in Bethel, for free.

In the 1980’s the new technology of cable television came on the scene offering viewers another option for receiving programs not available over the airwaves but through a service delivered to the home via a cable connection for a monthly subscription fee.  The incentive was the greater choice of programming offered by cable.  In succeeding decades cable television services grew in technical sophistication as well as in the quality and quantity of available programming and pay TV took root.

The next innovation was satellite television services delivered directly to the home.  These services, including DISH and Direct TV, offer viewers even more programming choices, competing head to head with cable delivered services, all for a fee.

Now, in the dawning of the digital age with its explosion of technology in recent years, television programming is delivered in a wide variety of methods and formats to an ever-growing number of devices.  Images and sound have moved beyond the television set.  TV is now available on desktop computers, laptop computers, IPads and tablets and even smart phones…again, mostly for a fee.

Within this ever-expanding web of access to moving images and sound, over the air broadcast television is still alive and well.  Free over the air broadcast television programming provided by a local commercial or noncommercial television station still provides a valuable, if often overlooked, service to their communities.

Free over the air television fills a niche in the video universe by offering access to entertainment, information and even education to people who for a variety of reasons either cannot afford to subscribe to a pay TV service or do not want to subscribe to them.  For some folks, free TV is the only TV they have.

Local over the air broadcast TV stations are also critically important to the emergency alert system.  Many local broadcast TV stations are the primary emergency alert stations in their areas.  Cable and satellite service providers are not local and must forward through their systems all emergency alerts send out from local over the air broadcast TV stations.

So, tune your flat screen TV or digital to analog converter box to channel 15 and check out your local over the air broadcast TV station here in Bethel.  KYUK-TV has been providing free over the air television programming to Bethel since 1972 and we plan to be here well into the future.

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