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The Age

AT HOME WITH PAY TV

Author: Phil Bertolus
Date: 02/02/1995
Words: 1192
          Publication: The Age
Section: Green Guide
Page: 1
Welcome to the brave new world of Galaxy pay TV, or should that be Golf TV? Whatever. Phil Bertolus is paying, watching, and waiting for the moment when the golf and wrestling stop and the new era in home entertainment begins.

THE installers arrived, belted a hole in the wall with a hammer and a large screwdriver, pulled the antenna cable up the wall cavity, strapped the antenna on to the chimney, connected some cables, plugged them into the black box, fiddled with my video and TV and hey presto: World Championship Wrestling. Hooray! Welcome to pay television.

What a giddying ride it's been. On January 6 the installers came in two vans and incredible haste. Half an hour later the antenna my bridge to a new and exciting world was mounted.

The antenna man chose the 12 inch model from his arsenal of antennas and masts, as we are 15 kilometers from the city. The cable from the antenna assembly fed down the wall into the Galaxy black box, the decoder.

Oh no, not another remote control. Now I have the free TV, the video, the stereo and now the pay TV, all remotely controlled. But wait, that's not all. The pay remote can control all the other gadgets.

The only trouble is: the instructions don't cover the remote controller delivered with the decoder box. There are simple instructions on the bottom of the controller, which I can't understand. They conclude with an invitation to ring a 1-800 number if you get into trouble. When I call the number I get a Telecom recorded announcement.

Close inspection of the wires that connect all the video gizmos together (black box, video recorder, and TV) reveals that the antenna man has managed to overcome a problem which will most likely bug the competing cable TV people. He's wired the decoder black box, video recorder and TV in what's called bypass configuration.

Now listen closely. If you're not wired in bypass configuration you can only record what your TV is watching. That means if you're watching Galaxy and you want to record The Bill on Saturday night, bad luck. On the other hand, in bypass configuration you can watch one and record the other.

There is still the restriction with Galaxy that you can only decode one channel at a time, which means that if you're watching the music channel, then you can't record the news channel. Real TV freaks can order a second decoder to get around this and, guess what, Galaxy will give you a big discount on the second decoder.

So what are we getting for our pay TV dollar?

Programming started ahead of the 26 January network launch. There was wrestling, golf, golf, basketball, golf, golf, women's beach volley ball (a real experience), surfing, golf, golf, sailboarding, soccer, golf, golf and golf. And just about all of it was American.

There were no other channels.

After a few days I actually tried to become interested in watching golf. This proved one thing. I am now absolutely certain I don't like watching golf.

Then came the BIG launch on Australia Day at 4pm. Two movie channels, a music channel, a sport (golf) channel and a news channel.

The family gathered by the TV in expectation of the great things this new technology was about to deliver. After all, if the hype was right, my life was about to change.

The sport channel, curiously, played golf. However, I did get to see one program I enjoyed at 11.30pm that Australia Day called Hot Wheels.

It's real boys' stuff, the drags, featuring top European fuel dragsters, driven by women, doing the standing quarter mile in 5.11 seconds finishing at 440 kilometres per hour. The female interviewer, who had an Australian accent, had a chat with one of the Norwegian drivers. I concluded that these women were crazy.

The movie channels, channels 9 and 10, were what my eight-year-old niece, Claire, wanted to watch. A touch of disappointment here. They only had previews on, which repeated about every hour or so. One of the movies previewed, Far and Away is already in the video shop. The movie channels go to air in March. No wonder the first two months are free!

The music channel has proved interesting. After watching pile on pile of noisy drivel, a clip popped up from a band called Tiddas titled Waiting. The room was full of screaming children. They fell silent. This stuff was great. It was genuinely beautiful music that shone like a star in a lake of trash. I thought not all of this American stuff was bad. I was later staggered to learn that this band was from Melbourne, Australia. Pay TV might just be what our young performers need.

The news channel ANBC is a collection of things from CNBC (a business channel) and NBC Super Channel. So much for no ads. Both the source channels break every so often for a commercial. So what do we get? A promotion for ANBC which lasts about one minute.

The content? What can I say, it's American. A story about a man who had a tree fall on him. He was going to bleed to death. So he took his pocket knife, amputated his own leg, and crawled to safety. There he was on the screen, walking on his prosthetic leg.

Later, coverage of O. J. Simpson's new book. O. J. apparently released the book in response to 300,000 pieces of mail. He is going to get 12 cents per copy sold and they've already printed half a million copies. The reporter said ``the one piece of mail which inspired him the most to release the book was the bill from his lawyer".

NBC Nightly News. Strange, the music sounds just like Channel 7's news. Yes folks, we're about to become a colony of US TV news. It's a new perspective. Did you know the US Government is about to adjust its budget by $ 1.2 trillion? Do you know what a trillion is? I think it's like a zillion.

CNBC is a channel covering all the world's stock exchanges and financial indexes. It has interviews with finance-industry gurus.

There's a show called How to Be Successful in Business. It's a great concept watch CNBC and be successful. I'm watching and hoping.

A innovation the Americans have in their news show is an Internet address. That means I can get on my computer and mail them a complaint about the man who amputated his own leg off! I guess the cable TV competitors will let you do that in real time. Nevertheless, if you have Internet and Galaxy you're going to get pretty close to interactive TV. And it's here now.

As it stands, Galaxy misses out in at least one important area limiting it's usefulness to our family. There's no channel for children yet. There's no Play School, Mulligrubs, Humphrey, Fairy Boat Fred, Thomas the Tank, and dare I say it, Power Rangers!

 
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