I guess this is really a question for my American friends.

I came across a rather strange video a few days back, featuring the ex-White Stripes guitarist Jack White in conversation with Conan O’Brien early in 2013.

I knew who Jack White was, but I’ve never heard of Conan O’Brien. He seems to be some sort of comedian and talk show host.

About 3 minutes into the show, which seems to be taking place inside a black box that O’Brien claims to have made from asbestos (I guess it was a joke it was made of asbestos, and it was probably a joke that he built it himself as well), Jack White pulls out a pack of cigarettes and lights up, and blows smoke very forcefully across the table into O’Brien’s face. And spends the rest of the hour long show doing it over and over again.

While the two seem to get along pretty well, and talk about art and music and stuff, I got the feeling that something else was happening as well. And what I thought might be happening was that while Jack White was a smoker, Conan O’Brien was probably an antismoker, and Jack White knew it, and was doing his level best to needle him. That was my best guess, anyway. I haven’t seen someone smoke that aggressively in a long time.

Anyway, I was left puzzled. Why had O’Brien built a black box? Why couldn’t they use an ordinary set? Why was Jack White smoking so aggressively? What am I missing?

It seems that Conan O’Brien has his own NBC show, but he’s branched out into cable as well, and it seems that on cable more or less anything goes. So I’m guessing the Jack White interview was one of his cable shows. From Seven Things Conan Can Do on Cable That He Couldn’t on NBC:

Now that Mad Men has made smoking glamorous again, no basic-cable show should be without it. Conan doesn’t smoke, but once he’s on TBS, we hope that won’t stop his guests. Just imagine how much easier it will be for him to book tar-lunged celebrities like Sean Penn, Katherine Heigl, and Barack Obama now that they can light up right on his couch.

I don’t know whether we have cable TV here in the UK, but I don’t see that internet chat shows need to stick to the puritanical antismoking standards of the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4.

It would be really great if there were chat shows on which everyone could drink as much as they liked and smoke as much as they liked. It would be a welcome change from the current sterile broadcast alternative. It wasn’t too long ago (20 years?) that Channel 4 had a show called After Dark, with people sitting round a drink-laden table, chatting and smoking deep into the night. Impossible these days, but unremarkable back then.

P.S. Someone asked me to post this link up on behalf of Audrey Silk.


About Frank Davis

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34 Responses to Puzzled

  1. Conans a leftist commie makes fun of all of us…………..

  2. audreysilk says:

    Many thanks.

  3. cherie79 says:

    I remember After Dark, I used to enjoy it and it suited my insomnia very well. I don’t know what’s happened to all the interesting programmes, apart from Andrew Neil I rarely find anything of interest politically and few that cater for a tiny but informed audience. I liked Jay Leno but haven’t really watched comedy since.

  4. audreysilk says:

    Conan O’Brien was a late night talk show host (Johnny Carson-like) on a major TV network. The network wars for late night hosts a few years ago ended with him getting shoved out and a while later was given a late night talk show on one of the major cable stations. This show, with Jack White as one guest, was something he did on the side. Sept. 2012: “Conan O’Brien launched a new web series today, Serious Jibber-Jabber, wherein he will discuss interesting topics with interesting people for like millions of minutes.”

  5. waltc says:

    I’d imagine you’ll never see smoking on any talk show that’s shot in any US studio bec in almost every state of our disunited union smoking is banned in all workplaces so it’s beyond the host’s and producer’s control. I could take a flying guess that that’s the reason for Conan’s joke. He knew the guy would smoke, likely wanted him to smoke, but couldn’t do the interview–at least not legally–in a regular studio (what if the cameraman died of lung cancer? Or the session got raided by the FDNY. and fined) so wherever he really was (and it might “illegally” have BEEN in a studio) he claimed it was in a box and the “made of asbestos ” would have been a cancer gag. Like, how can I be afraid of secondhand smoke when I’m purposely breathing asbestos? Or maybe, don’t worry, folks. The secondhand smoke is being contained in this asbestos box so it won’t hurt you.

  6. Lepercolonist says:

    TBS network would never allow smoking on their ‘The Conan O’Brien Show’. Serious Jibber-Jabber with Conan O’Brien has not aired since July, 2014. I’m sure Conan was asked if it was permissible if Jack White could smoke a cigarello in the studio. They are old friends from the 90’s.
    This interview reminded me of Johnny Carson with his cigarette in hand and a beautiful ashtray on his desk. Or Dean Martin with a cigarette on his NBC variety show. Agh, the good old days of T.V.

    Good luck, Audrey. We admire your courage.

  7. waltc says:

    Audrey’s lawyers won the right for clash to appeal the second NY court’s overturning of the first court’s judgment in Clash’s favor in a righteous law suit against my state’s ban on smoking in parks, beaches. However, law suits are expensive and tho she wouldn’t ask herself, I know she needs funding to pursue it or the state wins by default– even tho they’re dead wrong on legal and state constitutional grounds.

    So: if you can spare a nickel, go over to her FB site, scroll down to her appeal, and …do what you can


  8. Johns Hopkins Univ. Faces $1 Billion Lawsuit Over STD Study

    BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Billion dollar lawsuit. Hundreds of people, part of a horrific STD study, sue Johns Hopkins University.

    Nearly 800 former research subjects infected with sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala are seeking justice–but Hopkins says it is not to blame.

    Christie Ileto has more on the accusations and the denial.

    The government experiment happened more than 65 years ago. The victim’s attorneys argue it’s time to right a terrible wrong, while Johns Hopkins says its hands are clean.

    Nearly 800 names with the same story–Guatemalan research subjects in the 1940s and ’50s poked and prodded as human guinea pigs of the U.S. government and infected with syphilis and other STDs without their knowledge.

  9. EconomicPolicyJournal.com: Greece Draws Up Drachma Plans, Prepares to Miss IMF Payment


    • Rose says:

      Good heavens, how did the BBC let that one get past?

      Now that we know for sure that the Conservatives and LibDems are as bad as Labour in their relentless persecution of people who smoke, it would be sheer folly to vote for more of the same.

      “The nudge unit – a pet project of Prime Minister David Cameron – was launched in 2010 to find innovative ways of changing public behaviour.”

      I have given up the habit of a lifetime and stopped voting Conservative.

  10. Good going Audrey! :)

    Frank, great catch on this video! :> I didn’t get the same “aggressive” thing you saw though: I think he was blowing it out over the center/near side of the table so it wasn’t actually going toward Conan. Obviously the box thing and the nice ashtray on the table showed he was accepting of it… likely because Jack White demanded it as a condition.

    – MJM


      Just as Mike pointed out they word their polls to get the outcome they want and here they openly admit as much:

      Reliable Opinion Pollsters Public opinion polls are an effective way to deliver the message to politicians that the public supports strong enforcement. The most effective messengers to deliver that news are professional pollsters. Of course, professional poll takers cost money, so if this is not possible, we can conduct our own surveys. We need to think carefully how to phrase our questions. “Do you think smokers should be heavily fined for smoking in public places?” may, for instance, get less support than the question “Do you think our law protecting children and other nonsmokers from smoke in public places should be properly enforced?” While the first question focuses on punishing the smoker, the second fixes on enforcing an existing law. Stronger still may be questions that also focus on the rights of children and other nonsmokers to be protected from smoke.


  11. Rose says:

    Meanwhile back in India.

    BJP MP from Tezpur claims tobacco has ‘medicinal value’
    4 April 2015

    “Just two days after BJP MPs Shyam Charan Gupta and Dilip Gandhi started the row about there being no link between cancer and tobacco, another BJP MP Ram Prasad Sarmah who is also a beedi baron, said tobacco has medicinal value.”

    “Ram Prasad Sarmah is a BJP MP from Tezpur. He is also a member of Parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation looking into rules related to tobacco sales. Sarmah said the committee has no medical, chemical or material proof that tobacco consumption causes cancer.

    According to a leading daily, Sarmah said that experts in the scientific field should give the committee proof that tobacco causes cancer. They cannot take decisions based on hearsay because for he knows there are herbal and medicinal values to tobacco.”

    ‘Great future for tobacco in medicine’


    “Rajahmundry: Hari Senthidasan, Chief Operating Officer of Bitotech Elite Research and Innovations, Malaysia, has expressed confidence that his country will bring revolution in medicinal formulations of tobacco in the near future.

    He hoped India and Malaysia will sign a MoU on medicinal use and research in coming months. Senthidasan said that their main product Co-enzyme (Co-Q10) will be seen in Indian market after the said MoU as it has already captured markets in USA, Canada, Japan and other Asian countries.”

    “Mr. Hari said that Co-Q10 range of products, generally in capsule form are mostly used in anti-aging, weight loss, food and beverages, skin-care lotions, creams and other formulations. He explained that Coco-cola Company is also using Co-Q10 enzyme in their cola as an energy drink and their main motto and campaign is “Tobacco is not for cigarette making or smoking, it is a medicinal plant”.

    Bitotech Elite, as a company with alternative use of tobacco is aimed at 100 million turnover is taking part in Contract Farming in Malaysia.

    In coming months it is concentrate on many health supplements and nutrition foods which are made from tobacco extracts.”

  12. wobbler2012 says:

    What really pisses me off with the BBC is that they are so utterly anti-smoking yet their presenters will regularly joke about alcohol and alcohol is more damaging than smoking. The BBC really wind me up sometimes.

  13. roobeedoo2 says:

    Frank, I didn’t any vibes about the smoking. It just was as it should be

    Thank you, I thoroughly the interview and I did love Monster Mash as a child. Memory Lane and a just a little bit smoke-machiney ;)

  14. City of Brazoria bucks nonsmoking trend

    By Harvey Rice | April 3, 2015

    GALVESTON – It’s a staple of countless pulp fiction novels and TV police dramas. The suspect in the police interrogation room is close to being broken. The “good” cop slides a pack of cigarettes across the table. The suspect lights up, takes a deep drag, sits back in his chair and starts talking.

    The trouble is that in the real world, smoking is not permitted in the interrogation room.

    Except, now, in the small town of Brazoria.

    Last month, the police chief of the city of 3,000 in west Brazoria County, where smoking is prohibited in public buildings, made his case to the city council that the interrogation room be exempted from the city’s ordinance.

    Council agreed unanimously and Brazoria, as best anyone can tell, is now the only city in Texas, and possibly in the entire country, where a detective can slide a pack of smokes across the table in hopes of softening up a suspect or putting a nervous witness at ease.

    Police Chief Neal Longbotham told the council that the investigator for his seven-officer department argued that allowing suspects or witnesses to smoke put them at ease and made it easier to establish a rapport. “She felt that they are under pressure and under stress and sometimes they want to smoke a cigarette to relax themselves,” Longbotham said.

    Before the change, officers would interrupt questioning to take suspects or witnesses outside for a smoke. Refusing to allow smoking during an interview would only make interviewees more tense and uncomfortable, Longbotham said.

    “When the council first got wind of it, they had doubts about it,” Longbotham said. “They were thinking it was going to be a smoke room where everyone can go and smoke cigarettes.”

    But he won over the council with his argument that it could make interviewees more comfortable and therefore more willing to cooperate.

    There are no similar exceptions to nonsmoking laws elsewhere in Texas that have come to the attention of Patricia Gray, director of research at the University of Houston Health Law and Policy Institute, which keeps a database of nonsmoking laws in the state that was updated last year.

    “It is a unique exception,” Gray said. “I don’t find it particularly alarming, and I suspect it has more to do with establishing some rapport.”

    ‘Power of tobacco’

    Unlike Brazoria, other Texas cities are moving toward tougher smoking restrictions. “Most of what we’ve been seeing is trending the other way,” Gray said. “We have a dozen municipalities that have amended ordinances to incorporate e-cigarettes.”

    The data base doesn’t keep track of counties because they do not have the power to pass nonsmoking ordinances, although many, including Harris County, have nonsmoking policies that don’t have the force of law that a city nonsmoking ordinance does. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office turns a blind eye to the county policy when it comes to interrogation rooms, sheriff’s spokesman Alan Bernstein said. Bernstein quoted a supervisor as saying, “The psychological and physiological power of tobacco has proven to be extremely fruitful over the years. A cigarette is a small price to pay for a murder confession.”

    The Houston Police Department doesn’t see it that way.

    “We don’t allow it,” Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said. Police investigators don’t feel that the nonsmoking rule is making their investigations more difficult. “Our investigators don’t feel that that’s an issue,” Silva said.

    Nationally, it’s hard to find another city with a nonsmoking exception for interrogation rooms. Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights keeps track of nonsmoking laws throughout the country and could only find one city with a similar law.

    Merrill, Wis., passed an exception for its police interrogation room in 1997, said Cynthia Hallett, the organization’s executive director.

    The city abolished the rule so long ago that Merrill Police Capt. Corey Bennett said he couldn’t recall the exact date. Losing the exception has not been a problem, Bennett said. “When someone needs a cigarette, we usually just go outside with them,” he said. “It’s not an issue at this point.”

    So far there have been no complaints about the smoking change from Brazoria residents, police officers or anyone else, Longbotham said. The local newspaper, The Facts, carried an editorial supporting the decision.

    Second-hand smoke

    But the idea of allowing smoking anywhere riles Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “There is a lot of evidence associated with the effects of second-hand smoke exposure,” Hallett said. “Even if you are exposed to a little bit, you can be at risk.”

    There doesn’t seem to be any push by other Texas police departments to follow Brazoria’s example. The issue has never been discussed among members of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, said Shenandoah Assistant Police Chief Bryan Carlisle, speaking on behalf of Shenandoah Chief John Chancellor, association president.

    “In talking with my chief, in his estimation that’s never been an issue that’s been brought before the Chiefs Association,” Carlisle said.

    Carlisle said he would be unwilling to expose his officers to smoke in an interrogation room


    • waltc says:

      So the freest place in Texas is inside an interrogation room! Bringing new meaning to “I’d kill for a smoke.” The next laugh here is the guy who wouldn’t expose his (big tough Texas) cops to secondhand smoke. Guns, knives, crazies and thugs, okay; tobacco smoke, no. JFC, we have lost our national mind.

      • Now in texas they teach JFK was killed by an assasins second hand smoke on the bullet!

        • If not for the poisoned bullet by tobacco smoke the president might have survived.
          This is also true of MLK and of President Lincoln all Assasins smoke and they use those tobacco chemicals the same way a African hunter does by dipping his arrow in kuari.

  15. That radio clip started off rather well, but degenerated in the middle as the speaker went on about how he’d never “smoke in front of children” (Have people truly had the reality of 30, 20, or even 10 years ago THAT thoroughly erased from their minds … so much so that they refer to such a mind-set as though it had always been the expected norm???) and also, “just as a matter of courtesy,” never smoked in restaurants even when in a restaurant that welcomed people to smoke there!


    • nisakiman says:

      The propaganda machine has been very effective; so much so that even smokers have been conditioned to include those riders about the cheeldren. “I would never smoke in the car if I had kids in there” is a common cry from smokers trying to avert the heavier blows from Tobacco Control freaks. Well I would. I always did. They can take all that bullshit and stick it where the sun don’t shine. It’s well past time that the liars were called on their capnophobic witterings.

      • Jude says:

        Much like always saying “I’m a smoker but I want to quit”, which just plays into their hands, and gives the puritans the base of their statistics that apparently 80% of smokers want to quit smoking. All part of the bullying and brainwashing.

    • Frank Davis says:

      started off rather well, but degenerated

      Yes, he pretty comprehensively shot himself in both feet. But there was nevertheless a spirit of resistance.

      But then, more or less all smokers will say this. They’ve almost all surrendered on the health front, and will readily agree that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, and all the rest of it. At which point, of course, they’ve lost the war. But the speaker was still resisting, all the same. He was speaking up. He was even threatening to vote UKIP. So credit where credit is due.

      • “They’ve almost all surrendered on the health front, and will readily agree that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, and all the rest of it. At which point, of course, they’ve lost the war. ”

        Frank, on this point we disagree. Smoking and exposure to secondary smoke etc are TOTALLY different things: you can believe quite firmly that smoking is almost as bad as the nuts make out, but STILL quite rationally hold that the 1/10,000th or 1/100,000th level of exposure in a well ventilated environment with a reasonable proportion of smokers is quite safe — if you want to use the word “safe” in its ordinary definition as an English word.

        E.G. Is it safe to take your baby out for a walk in the carriage once in a while? Well, you’ve got diesel fumes, solar radiation, drunk drivers who swerve up on sidewalks, street shootings, kidnappers, falling pianos, and lightning strikes to worry about. How can that possibly be considered safe? Shouldn’t a mother be jailed for exposing her child to all that risk?

        And the answer is, of course, no. Why? Because the very small likelihood of all those things allows one to walk one’s baby while STILL BEING SAFE… in the true sense of the word. What the Antismokers have done is play the Orwellian “redefinition of words” game in order to corrupt our thought processes and move them from rational analysis to irrational propaganda-driven decision-making.

        I have a secondary point of disagreement about this smoking/secondhand smoke thing as well: the harm of smoking has become SOOOO deeply ingrained in the world consciousness at this point that anyone questioning it AT ALL is immediately dismissed as being a loonie who’s not worth listening to. EVEN IF you have a sound point in criticizing studies or claims about smoking itself, you’ll generally stand a much better chance of winning converts among the passers-by if you stick to those areas where the Antismokers are TRULY weakest… where they’re so weak that the average passer-by will be intrigued by anyone who challenges them — because they themselves don’t really, truly, believe them deep down.

        There are some exceptions to this general rule of course. E.G. most people have enough skepticism about the “400,000 deaths” number that they’ll be open to hearing about SAMMEC statistics. Most people over 40 or so are also a bit skeptical about smoking moms killing all their babies: they have too clear a memory of their own or friend’s moms smoking all during their nine months and the kids turning out fine.

        We don’t have enough people or time or energy or money to hit at ALL the Antismokers’ lies, so we need to make the maximum impact with every little gun we fire: and aiming at the Antis where they’re the weakest, at their most obvious lies and self-serving distortions…. that’s where I believe we make the most difference.

        – MJM

        • Frank Davis says:

          Frank, on this point we disagree. Smoking and exposure to secondary smoke etc are TOTALLY different things: you can believe quite firmly that smoking is almost as bad as the nuts make out, but STILL quite rationally hold that the 1/10,000th or 1/100,000th level of exposure in a well ventilated environment with a reasonable proportion of smokers is quite safe — if you want to use the word “safe” in its ordinary definition as an English word.

          Well, it seems to me that when you concede that active smoking is harmful, you’re in some difficulty if you then claim that passive smoking isn’t harmful. They’re not totally different things. Both entail inhaling smoke, after all. At what point does the smoke become safe? The antis will say that environmental tobacco smoke just kills 1/10,000th of the number of people that active smoking does, but although it’s a smaller number, it’s still far too many.

          My view is: reject ALL the claims made about smoking. Throw out the whole lot. If you don’t, you’re bound to lose.

  16. I heard a girl about 32 lastnite her husband just retired from the navy out of san diego calif.

    She said Smokers and non smokers get the same so called diseases and her husband was a navy medic/corpsman. I just went about a double take somebody I don’t even know whose enjoying a smoke in line with me and just out of the blue says that…………

    Further conversation provided facts that the younger generations aint stupid or blind, It means the future is secure and will be free.

    And hopefully our efforts have given the kids the facts they need to tell the Nazis fuck u.

  17. Enforcement officer catches more than a thousand people – including staff – flouting hospital …


    More than 1,000 people have been caught smoking on hospital sites since Cardiff and Vale University Health Board introduced a full ban 18 months …

    So much for hospital smoking bans its the same way in Nashville downtown………..

  18. mikef317 says:

    To embellish what Audrey and Walt said.

    I don’t know Conan’s opinions on tobacco, and I only watched the first few minutes of the video. Rather than an “aggressive” smoker, I’d classify Jack as a very nervous man.

    Look at the body language.

    Conan (who has spent much of his adult life in front of cameras) is totally relaxed.

    Jack keeps waving his hands, jerking his head, and wiggling in his chair. He keeps rubbing his face and playing with his hair. At times he appears to be staring at the table rather than looking at Conan. When Jack lights the cigarette, he uses his hand to wave smoke away from his face. I never do that. I know how to light a cigarette, and there is never a cloud of smoke to wave away. Also, after Jack lights the cigarette, he only takes a drag maybe every minute or two; this isn’t normal smoking behavior.

    Bottom line, Jack is nervous, not aggressive.


    In the U. S., late night television starts at 11 PM. Smaller stations run two star movies and repeats of old TV shows. The big networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) run a half hour of local (as opposed to national) news. Most local news is inane drivel – pictures of fires, storms, and traffic accidents, coverage of area politics, sports highlights, the weather forecast, etc. The local news is generally followed by one (or several) “talk” shows.

    Talk shows have a light comedy / entertainment format. Occasionally a serious topic might be briefly discussed, but that is an exception.

    The oldest and most famous talk show is The Tonight Show on NBC. This started in the 1950’s, but I’m not going to write a history.

    In 1962 Johnny Carson became host of Tonight and held the job for 30 years. Like a template in a computer program, Carson solidified the talk show format. (The original was created by Jack Parr, Carson’s predecessor, who was funny but more serious.)

    Tonight was shot in a theatre with a live audience. Johnny would walk to the front of the stage and deliver a monologue of jokes on the news of the day. Then he would move to the “set.”

    Johnny sat at the right side of a modestly sized desk. To his right was a couch for guests and an armchair for Johnny’s announcer / “sidekick,” Ed McMahon who played Abbott to Carson’s Costello. Further right was a small band that did occasional drumrolls, played the opening notes of a guest’s movie or TV show’s theme, etc.

    Most guests on these shows are bigtime or want-to-be-bigtime movie / TV stars or musicians promoting their latest endeavor, people with books to sell, etc. Occasionally you’ll see a zookeeper with an exotic animal, a chef who will be provided a stove to teach cooking skills, or a professional wrestler who will use the host to demonstrate the proper application of a headlock. All good fun. (Being a grumpy old curmudgeon, I’m not big on comedy, so I don’t watch these shows – but hell, from the clips / excerpts I’ve seen, most of the hosts are pretty good comics, and they’re sure as hell a lot more fun than the 11:00 news.)

    The less frequently seen “people at a table” show is more serious (or pretentious?). There is no audience or band. Like the Conan video, the host and one or two guests (who could be just about anybody) discuss serious issues. The economy. Peace in the Middle East. Whatever. These shows can be entertaining, and even informative. They are not, however, typical of late night talk.


    After Carson’s Tonight show aired, it was followed by a second talk show hosted by David Letterman (another good comic). Letterman was the presumed “heir apparent” to host Tonight when Carson retired. However, there was also Jay Leno (another good comic) who was a frequent guest host on many nights when Carson decided that he didn’t want to work. (Lots of nights.)

    Carson retired, Leno got the Tonight show, Letterman moved to CBS to compete with Leno (and didn’t do very well). Conan O’Brian was hired to replace Letterman on NBC – and was the presumed “heir apparent” for Leno.

    Years passed. Leno left Tonight to do a comedy show that aired at 10 PM Monday through Friday. O’Brian took over Tonight. Some other comic (who cares who?) was hired to replace O’Brian in his old time period.

    While Leno had competed successfully against Letterman, O’Brian couldn’t. And Leno had his own problems – his 10 PM program was hardly “must see” TV.

    Within a year, Leno’s 10 PM program was cancelled, and he was back hosting Tonight. I’m not sure what happened with O’Brian. Was he offered a return to his old time slot? Was he fired? Did he quit after “loosing” to Leno? Whatever, he didn’t “branch out” from NBC to cable. He now has a show on cable (TBS, Turner Broadcasting System.) I don’t watch the show, but Conan is a good comic (and trying out “serious” in the clip).


    U. S broadcast vs cable TV.

    There are all the frequencies in the electro-magnetic spectrum that can be used to broadcast a signal from a transmitter to a receiver. The federal government assigns ranges of frequencies to specific purposes – some to the military, some to police and fire departments, air traffic controllers, etc. – and some to TV and radio stations.

    When TV first started, the government licensed TV frequencies to corporations. CBS, which began in radio, was one of the first. In New York City, CBS got a license to transmit on a specific frequency that no other NYC company could use. Other licenses were needed for Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. (Maybe too much detail…. When speaking of a Network, there are “owned and operated” stations and “affiliated” stations. CBS literally owns the NYC station. “Affiliated” stations are independent corporations that pay CBS a fee to run CBS programs. All identify themselves as CBS, but out of maybe 200 stations that comprise the Network, only 16 are actually owned by CBS.)

    In return for a station’s license to broadcast on a specific frequency (exclusive use of “public airwaves”), the government set two conditions.

    First, broadcasters cannot charge people who receive their broadcasts. All “airwave” signals in the U. S. are free. You have to buy a TV and radio (and maybe a moderately priced antenna) but your expenses end with the electronics. Broadcasters recoup their programming costs and make money by selling commercial time to advertisers.

    The government also played censor. Broadcast signals were (or could be) beamed to every home in America – and children were watching! So we got married couples who slept in twin beds, wearing pajamas, and the word “pregnant” couldn’t be spoken.

    From broadcast to cable (pre-internet).

    In NYC, I can receive about 10 “airwave broadcast” stations. My cable company offers those plus hundreds more. The Africa Channel is interesting. (Other than war and disease, how often do you hear about life in Africa?) There’s a Golf Channel, a Weather Channel, and multiple business channels, cartoon channels, music channels, etc., etc. None of these have “airwave broadcast” facilities in NYC. (And as you might expect, most of these stations aren’t worth watching.)

    With cable, NOTHING is broadcast over the airwaves. Like electricity supplied to your home, cable depends on physical wiring. In NYC, from Time Warner Cable transmission facilities, there is physical cable that does (or can) connect to every building in the city.

    In my house I have a TW cable that drops down from a telephone pole across the street. It runs maybe 30 feet outside the house, and then through a small hole drilled in the living room wall, connects to a modem and a signal splitter. Cable companies have branched out into internet service and telephone providers. My one TW cable links to my TV, my computer, and my telephone.

    Cable technology had (or has) plusses and minuses.

    Cable companies don’t use “public airwaves” so they can charge for their services. And they do! A lot. Some of this is reasonable. It costs a huge amount of money to wire an entire city. Because of cost, most local governments granted a monopoly to a single cable company. No competition! (At least not for decades after the initial cable rollout.) Thus cable companies are notorious for high prices and dismal customer service.

    Since you have to purchase cable, the issue of “transmitting broadcast content” into every American home (protecting the children!) doesn’t apply. Years ago, “parental controls” were mandated for TV sets (and carried over to cable). Parents can set a password to block kids access to many things. Protecting the children isn’t a valid argument for censoring cable programs.

    This is where the fun begins.

    At the start, “premium” cable like HBO (Home Box Office) wasn’t subject to government censorship. People could say “fuck.” You might see a brief shot of a woman’s naked beasts – or her ass.

    Things have improved considerably! A wide variety of pornography is now available.

    There is “soft core” and “hard core” pornography. Premium cable was always (and still is) soft core. But there is also “on demand” cable. There’s nothing “soft” about this. I have access (at a halfway reasonable price) to hundreds of hard core pornographic movies. Other than never seeing a male ejaculate (weird since men do) these are the real thing.

    After cable.

    Technology moved on. First satellite dishes (originally maybe 5 or 6 feet in diameter; now smaller than a pizza). Then the internet. Cable won’t be going away any time soon, but today you could do your own talk show in your living room, and post it on the internet for the entire world to see. What you smoke or drink is up to you and your guests.

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