|AETN - Arkansas Educational Television Network:
Television Worth Watching is Television Worth Paying For. Is it either?
Because the contents of these pages could be considered to be rather "negative" please let me say that I appreciate having Public Television available in Arkansas. And I say "Thank You" to those people, both volunteer and paid, who do their jobs well. Your efforts are very much appreciated. But for those incompetent folks who cause or allow the problems which are reported on these pages, I can only say "Please move on. Stop giving AETN a black eye. There must be someone somewhere willing to hire folks who are unable or unwilling to earn their salaries."
For my Log of Incidents which keep me asking this question, click here. For the events leading up to the question, read on.
Although I noted problems with broadcasts, with incorrect listings in the program guide, and with delivery of the program guide itself after the departures of Raymond Ho and Ray Nielsen, I tried to ignore them. But problems with broadcasts in particular became so frequent and serious that I could no longer ignore them. Beginning in 2004 and for over a year I wrote to AETN trying to get them to do something about what I came to call the "Zap" problem - While watching a show I was startled by a sudden, loud buzz. This was followed by a black screen. Then the Channel 9 color bar test pattern came on. Sometimes programming would return to normal, sometimes the Zap repeated. Finally, after writing letters to the El Dorado News Times and to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette suggesting that concerned viewers write to AETN to complain and/or to withhold their annual donations, I got their attention and was told that the problem probably had something to do with a tower that was not tall enough and that the tower was to be extended. Eventually the tower was indeed extended, or so I was told, but the problem did not go away. Next I was told that the problem occurred because of the hot weather. So when I got Zapped several days when the temperature was below freezing I contacted them again. Now the story was that there was a part (a YIG) somewhere that was failing and they were trying to get it replaced. They had trouble with at least ten of them and then had troubles with the replacements.
Another problem: My wife was watching one of those sewing shows that are broadcast Saturday mornings. The guest was about to demonstrate an interesting new "foot" for a sewing machine. Just as she started, the show was cut off. In its place was a series of those advertisements that public TV has been forced to accept. The ads were run twice before the next program came on. I was assured that it was probably just a computer programming error, or perhaps the show (for the first time ever) ran longer than was allowed by the computer.
Yet another problem: One morning I went on-line to check the content of the day's "Last of the Summer Wine" program since neither my local newspaper nor the AETN Program Guide bothers to list even the episode name for many programs. What I found, instead of the AETN home page, was an "Arkansas Outdoors" page with a recipe for black-eyed pea dip with no obvious way to get to the day's program guide. Thinking that perhaps the station was having some sort of internet problem, I sent an e-mail to alert them. I received a reply saying that the web site was still on-line, but that the webmaster had somehow caused the pea dip page to replace the normal home page. The problem was fixed sometime the next day.
The problems go on and on. On 21 October 2006, "As Time Goes By" was cut off before the show was over. What replaced the ending? Just AETN's non-ad advertisements, followed by a stretch of their logo bragging about 40 years of great service, followed by another stretch of blackness. Was that really necessary?
As of March 2007, programs were still being interrupted by an occasional "Zap." At the end of April 2007 the Zaps were back in force. Three times during one week we were startled by the explosive sound, the screen blanked out, and then the Channel 9 test pattern came on. Does anyone even care?
Sometime during June 2007 a new problem appeared: The video would "flicker" - frames would freeze, frames would be skipped, the screen would go black. Sometimes the audio would continue, sometimes it would go off. And, a less serious problem - the on-line schedule and actual broadcasts for "Last of the Summer Wine" were not always consistent.
Am I wrong to suspect that there is a pattern here? Engineers that can't fix engineering problems, computer programs that don't work properly, webmasters that cause problems? Is this really TV Worth Watching and TV Worth Paying for? Have you noticed that they don't seem to be using those two phrases any more?
More and more frequently, AETN is doing away with it's regular, great programming to ask for donations. What kind of people are they hiring with that money?
This page could go on, and on, and on... Rather than do that, click here if you'd like to see the Log of Incidents that I've decided to keep.