The rising demand for overseas television: America's United Nations of cable TV
Satellite TV lets immigrants cocoon in their own culture. Does it also alienate?
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These families have little interest or connection to American programming or news. And relatives and friends in their native countries who have satellite can also watch the programs produced by the diaspora in the same language aired from American cities. Afghans in Kabul and their compatriots in Los Angeles can see each other now as never before. It's another symptom of globalization.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures America's United Nations of Cable TV
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The companies that offer international programming are making money. Dish Network, the largest provider of foreign-language channels in the US, has nearly doubled its business in two years from 8 million to 14 million customers. Dish offers 200 channels in 29 languages, not including Spanish, which is the most popular foreign language. As the largest ethnic population in the US, Hispanics have a variety of choices among the 255 Spanish channels available on satellite.
Demand rises for 24-hour cricket
Francie Bauer, a spokeswoman for Dish, says English remains the most popular language for its customers, but the company makes a special effort to meet the demands of its foreign-language market.
Comcast, a communication giant that offers digital cable, is also providing programming to address the ethnic demand. It offers up to 40 Spanish channels. The other popular channels in the San Francisco Bay Area are South Asian, Filipino, and Chinese. Bryan Byrd, a spokesman for Comcast, says trends in the business show that Portuguese-language channels are becoming more in demand, and one of the hottest networks in the Bay Area is now NEO Cricket, the world's first 24-hour cricket channel aired from India.
Whether through satellite, cable, or the Internet, immigrants will pay for their native-language TV. But does this connection to their homeland alienate them from American life? One of the paths to assimilation and learning English for immigrants in the US has been American television. Shows like "Sex and the City" and "American Idol" explain mainstream American culture (for good or ill) to first-generation immigrants in a way that daily reality doesn't.
GL Wiz, the Canadian company that sells the receiver box for Iranian and Afghan channels, has grown rapidly in the past four years and is gaining more business from people who live in apartment complexes. Taraneh Dousti, a company supervisor, says that GL Wiz has legal agreements with Iran and Afghanistan providers to broadcast their programs. Customers get 40 channels from the two countries, along with 80 to 90 channels produced by diaspora communities living in the US.
"Many, many times, the customers come to us and say they are addicted to [a particular foreign-language] TV series and the children will watch it with their parents. The whole family can understand it. They can all sit together and watch a show. That's the biggest benefit.... It brings the family together," Ms. Dousti says.