Ajo History Cable TV

Feb 28, 2020 by Bryan Blow

Owner Ajo Satellite Sales and Service

As I sit in front of my 50” TV, with such clear channels, and so many I never dreamed that when we were on top of mountains around Ajo trying to bring in just one channel fit to watch, that this is what we were pioneering: And when Ajo had 12 channels and Phoenix had just 5 how things would change in the future. Of course, Ajo has just as many channels of TV as Phoenix does, but back 50 years it was so different because the Democrats controlled the FCC and they would not let cable TV into cities that had a TV station. Some of you may remember the petitions that movie theaters had going around to ban cable TV, but since Hollywood is one of the big donors to the Democrats the spirit of free enterprise was ignored.

I was on the Board of Directors of the National Cable TV Association which represented 61,000 independent operators and there were over 40 people on the board representing programmers, hardware and operators. I know most people have heard of Ted Turner, who was on the board, but he was small potato compared to most, who like John Malone owned over 13 million subscribers. Our biggest mission was getting the FCC overturned and we did with Senator Goldwater introducing President Regan. Now you know why you have satellite TV in Rocky Point even.

When the mine closed in 1985 in Ajo I sold out in 1989, and knowing some of these big players, I got interested in going to Mexico since most towns by then had cable TV, but the more I checked Mexico I kept hearing about Chile. Chile had only 5 percent unemployment, over 90 percent literacy rate, and free enterprise, so I got my friend Jim Monroe, who at one time was exec. officer of Bruce Merrill who many of you may remember bringing TV to Phoenix.

We got on a plane and flew to Santiago, Chile. We didn’t know anyone there. We did not speak Spanish except for my pidgin and away we went. Chile is a very modern country and when we got there in 1993 most people were already on computers, even little flower shops. We got a rental car and drove from Arica in the North to Puerto Montt in the South. We went with the idea of building one system for ourselves, but saw so much potential that when we got back to the U.S. I went to a colleague of John Malone and got backing to build cable TV in Chile

Chile is a beautiful country in the North where Arica is, it is so dry that it has never rained in the history of man – they get their water from the Andes. Calama, the big copper town near Arica is probably what put the Ajo mine out of business: It had 10,000 workers, the pit was 3 miles across, and so deep that trucks and trains could not bring the ore out, they used a conveyor belt. I asked an official what they would do when the ore ran out and he said that they would just move down the road a couple of miles.

They had TV, but there were only 5 stations and they microwaved them from Santiago to all of Chile, no other selection. So, we went and parked in front of a store renting cassettes to see what they were watching. We thought it would be soccer but were surprised it was cartoons and pornography. There was a Phelps Dodge Mine there and others. Chile is one big exporting country of copper. It is shipped out of a city called Antofagasta and another city getting its water from the Andes by pipeline. The North of Chile is desert; the middle like Globe area and the South like Michigan; and further South the ANTARTICA. With approximately 3,000 miles of coastline can you imagine the different species of fish you have to consume.

The borer of Chile to the East is the Andes and they average about 23,000 feet in height. If you saw the Andes and the movie “Alive” you could understand why it was so hard to find survivors of a plane crash. With the Rockies in an airline you cross in minutes with the Andes it is a good 40 minutes. About 100 years ago they had a war with Peru and Bolivia and, at that time, Bolivia extended all the way to the Pacific Ocean, but Chile beat both countries and as a settlement they go the area that Bolivia had to the ocean and that is why Chile now has it an the copper mines and the big telescope. This is still a sore point with Bolivia, for instance Chile has a wonderful airline called Lan Chile and while we were there, they tried to open an office in La Paz and the resentment made them have to close their offices.

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