The United States is in the early stages of a television revolution that promises to change dramatically the entertainment habits and possibly alter the lives of Americans at home and work in the coming decade. The dazzling technological changes already reflected in the introduction of two-Way cable TV, satellites, video disc and cassettes, over-the-Air pay TV, and home computers have the immediate potential for providing viewers with a much wider choice of news, information, and entertainment programs. In the longer run, some telecommunications experts see even greater changes in store. They see TV becoming the medium for shopping and banking, obtaining an education, and possibly even working at home.
But as the Monitor's television critic, Arthur Unger, points out in the series "Tomorrow's TV" -- the final installment of which appears today -- these technological advances also raise serious questions about the so-called "New Video Age" which few persons in or out of the broadcasting industry seem prepared to answer.
For instance, one of the biggest shortcomings of cable TV is the lack of suitable programming for the huge number of new channels being made available to TV viewers. Will these new avenues of communication actually fulfill their promise -- or will they offer only more of the same rather dismal "sitcoms," with their sophomoric preoccupation with sexual titillation, and other pap which consumes so much of network air time now, and which network executives insist most Americans want? Or, even worse, will they become the medium for piping superstition, soapbox oratory, and pornography into homes?
Many critics believe viewers and listeners outght to be given a bigger say in the types of programming offered. Their concern is that deregulation of broadcasting will only facilitate the takeover of the ne technologies by those who already monopolize much of the telecommunications industry. These critics worry also that the expected proliferation of two-way cable systems, with the abiliy to accumulate and distribute vast amounts of infomation on subscribers' viewing and voting preferences, may endanger the privacy of a ble subscribers.
These are concerns the TV viewing public itself ought to be raising but, in general, is not. Many cities currently are in the process of weighing applications for cable franchises.
Consideration should go to companies ahat shoulder the costs of wiring a city of cable, but viewerr should aplicant ofer in return -- and , indeed local cable monopolies should be the accepted norm. It would even be well for consumer groups to be represented on local bodies approving appli catble programming fot heir city or localty.
With as many as 100 new channels to be opened in some cities, cable will be capable of delivering special programs not appeal to mass audience but which nevertheless would draw a substantial foorlowing. Cable could also become a sourde of greeat cultural enrichment for smaller., isolated communities without access concert hass and major artists. But to ensure that the medium is responsive to local demand and standards, citizens will have to speak up -- orgainisng now to make their preferences known the stop the current drift of cable companies toward some TV pollution