Watching Austin’s ME Television (Music Entertainment Television) used to be an almost daily ritual. While getting dressed in the morning, or on weekends while I ate my oatmeal and tried to wake up and figure out what I was going to do with my day, I set the TV on cable channel 15 and let the music and images wash over me.
I discovered so many great artists because of that channel: MGMT, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Shirley Jones and the Dap Kings, to name a few. Sort of an indie-music version of the good old days of MTV, back when the “M” stood for Music. I thought it was a huge improvement over the previous Austin-based music channel, Austin Music Network, which was a bit disorganized. ME TV had a lot of great indie music of all different styles. They included live vids taken at South By Southwest and Austin City Limits Festival and produced some good local programming.
For the past few weeks, however, Channel 15 has displayed nothing but static. Local access channel 16 appears to have vanished as well. I have been hoping against hope that the station was just having technical problems and would soon return. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.
I probably shouldn’t use past tense, because ME Television still exists. As it turns out, Time-Warner Cable has kept the channel, but moved it to digital Channel 577, ostensibly to free up bandwidth. No word to anyone, nothing on Channel 15 to let people know where it went. Just “poof” gone. The channel also had to lay off a bunch of folks and move from South Congress into another office near the old airport.
KUT recently gave a report on the subject: Austin’s ME TV Faces Uncertain Future
If I want to see the channel again, I will have to upgrade from basic cable to digital and pay more per month. It seems to be part of a pattern. I’m not much of a TV watcher anyway, but now and again I get to like some show on some channel. Whenever that happens, Time Warner inevitably takes it away and moves it to digital. That happened with the National Geographic Channel and then with TruTV (guilty pleasure – I liked to watch the car crashes and the cops chasing people around).
I got a call from a Time Warner salesman a while back, trying to get me to upgrade from basic and I bit his head off because of that. His excuse was that the TV networks force them to do it by charging more money. That might be true when it comes to the National Geographic Channel, but TruTV is owned by Turner Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Time-Warner. Don’t tell me they moved it because they were forcing themselves to pay themselves more. Bogus. They’re trying to squeeze more money out of me and I’m all squeezed out.
In the case of ME Television I think it’s just a case of a big bureaucratic monopoly that doesn’t care. Local programming was nothing but an annoyance to them. The contract ran out and they took the first opportunity to get rid of them. The channel still exists, but I have a feeling not too many will find it way up there at 577, especially if they don’t already have digital cable. I’m toying with the idea of upgrading because of ME TV, but it’s a dilemma. If I do it, Time Warner’s liable to charge me more money and kill the channel anyway. I would get to see the car crashes and the Dog Whisperer again, but how badly do I really need those? Not to mention, why do I need the Hallmark channel? Or SyFy channel for that matter? I’m never gonna watch either of those. They could move ME TV to one of those spots. (We REALLY need a la carte TV, but that’s another subject.)
Maybe I should simmer down and be more optimistic. They might just make a go of it. Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World after all. Go to 577 and check them out if you can. If not, check out the ME TV website, which features some great live music videos.