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
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
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
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!