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Scrambled Signals

July 13, 1986

CNN, the self-proclaimed "World's most important network," turned its back on more than 2 million American viewers when it recently began full-time scrambling of their C-band satellite feed.

CNN is asking $25 per year to descramble its two services, CNN and Headline News. This is more than 10 times the wholesale price charged to cable operators. Is CNN worth $25 a year? Of course it is! Is $25 fair to the American public? I think not.

While I fully support the right of premium movie services to be paid for their programming, it seems unreasonable to me that a news service, heavily supported by commercials, should scramble.

CNN is denying access to the news not only to millions of Americans, but also to our neighbors in other parts of the world. Surely, the United States has a public-policy interest in presenting our news worldwide.

I am not against scrambling in principle, and was one of the first to purchase a M/A-Com consumer descrambler when HBO began scrambling in January. However, there are issues that need to be addressed.

Protecting the interests of cable companies is what this is really all about. Christian Broadcasting Network, a network who's purpose is to spread religious programming to as many as possible, has admitted that it is scrambling only because of pressure from cable companies.

Surely, it is not in CBN's interest to deny access to dish owners, yet the cable companies are trying to get all popular cable services to scramble in an attempt to kill the home-satellite market.

In my mind, cable is a dead technology. For five years I put up with bad pictures, bad sound, interrupted service and uncooperative and incompetent service representatives. The five-mile run of cable and amplifiers between the cable company's dish and my television set is an unnecessary and obsolete degradation of the picture.

In the beginning, TV was wireless, and I believe satellite reception is the TV of the future. With improved technology and Ku-band transmissions, dishes as small as one foot are possible. By the year 2000, Ku-band dishes may be as common as roof-top antennas are now. Cable will be obsolete.

The cable companies know this and are trying to intimidate dish owners and put home-satellite companies out of business. The main purpose of scrambling is not to secure payment for programming, but to kill the home-satellite industry and to protect the business interests of cable companies.

Despite problems with scrambling, I realize that scrambling is here to stay. However, it is clear to me that the current marketing plans of HBO and other program suppliers are designed to maintain cable's monopoly on a transmission method that should bypass the cable companies completely.


Culver City

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