July 9, 2004


A sweet alternative to cable TV
by Deborah Young

I decided to give up cable about four months ago. At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do without it for even a month. After all, what would I do without Lifetime Television’s Sunday night lineup? I knew I’d miss spying on the women doctors of Strong Medicine. I wouldn’t have a clue how their love lives were going, whether their kids had survived another Sunday or whether someone had gotten promoted or got into some kind of trouble.

I also thought I might miss something big on MTV’s Making of the Band 2. Maybe one of those fledgling rappers would quit the band while I wasn’t watching or two of the members would fall in love. Maybe P. Diddy would have a meltdown in front of the cameras and I wouldn’t get to see it.
There were also the more educational cable shows like those on C-Span and C-Span 2 that I’d miss. What if Toni Morrison appeared on C-Span 2 before I reconnected to cable?

I know there are more important things in the world than entertainment. I know people are dying all over the world, U.S. troops are still in Iraq and the U.S. economy is unstable. But after working all day, I still want to relax and TV used to be the way I relaxed. So I was a bit concerned that the regular networks and PBS would provide enough entertainment or information to relax by.

However, I discovered something that made me more content about the change. I discovered a wealth of audio programs available on the Internet. I discovered that many public radio stations and community radio stations have audio archives that I can listen to anytime for free.

I discovered that KPFA’s Richard Wolinsky interviews writers great and small for a show called Cover To Cover ( I also discovered WPS1’s Conversations with Writers … Continued ( with host Charles Ruas and KPCC’s Air Talk ( with Larry Mantle.

The thing I like most about listening to Internet shows is that I can identify a subject I want to hear about and then search for it. And I usually find audio archives about the topic somewhere online. With cable and regular TV, I just had to eat what I was fed.

I also like the idea of discovering vintage recordings of interviews with writers or musicians who are no longer alive.

“Didn’t you realize there was a lot of information out there?” a friend asked.

Yes. But I had no idea of the quality of so much of the information, specifically audio files. I had no idea that I could regularly spend a half hour listening to the thoughts of people like James Baldwin or Langston Hughes.

After listening to all those interviews and music I'd never heard, I began to think about how absolutely wonderful and under appreciated all kinds of artists are. What a drab world this would be without music, paintings and literature. The arts are as common as the ground we walk on, but we take them as much for granted as we do cement and limestone. Unfortunately, I had tuned out when I was tuned in to cable. I hadn’t sought alternatives avenues for the enlightened programming that’s still too rare on television in general.

Internet radio renewed my appreciation of the arts and artists of all flavors. It also helped me appreciate the people who work to make this information available to the haves and the have-nots. (By the way, these programs do accept donations, if you’re interested.)

So this have-little has decided to continue a steady diet of public and community radio programs online, even after the cable TV is reconnected.

Deborah Young can be contacted at or



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