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Cable and Satellite Television

Cable Television is a rapidly expanding segment of the industry, today reaching more than half of all American homes. Local cable companies use large satellite dishes to receive all kinds of programming, then sell the cable service directly to homes for a monthly fee. Basic cable service will include all the network and public stations (though with much better reception because of the cable hookup) and many cable-only stations that the local cable company offers for no extra charge for the regular monthly fee. These will vary depending on the local cable company. Premium channels, like movie channels HBO, certain sports channels, and even some foreign language channels, will also be available for an extra monthly fee. “Pay-per-view” movies and special sporting events are also available for a one-time charge per viewing.

Cable programming is extremely varied. The Discovery Channel, for example, shows nature shows and documentaries, while History Channel tells us how we got here. The Food Network cooks for us all day long. The Disney Channel has programs geared for children and families. Nickelodeon is largely children’s programming. Animal Planet is 100% animals, while House and Garden covers home issues. Turner Classic Movies (TCM) shows uninterrupted versions of the great films of the past. CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and Fox News compete for the 24-hour news and information segment. Dozens of other specialized networks, from country music to prayer, exist around the country. In any local area, the local cable company will offer a mix of these networks designed to appeal to the local audience.

Satellite dish TV systems are becoming more common. Houses with satellite dishes can receive hundreds of channels directly from satellites orbiting in outer space, although they may have to pay for a descrambler to receive certain pay stations.

Public access cable exists in all communities. Many of these programs are produced by amateurs or community affairs groups on a local level. They can be tedious or interesting, depending on your perspective.

Depending on the cable or satellite system, ethnic programming in different languages is available on a full-time basis for a small extra fee.

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