One of the oddest “war-torn country has better technology than we do in Canada” moments of our trip was when we checked into the thoroughly modern Hotel Ana in Gospić and found a television with over 300 channels on it.
Being western-o-centric as I am, I assumed this would necessarily include the U.S. networks, the U.S. cable channels, and perhaps some of the BBC and other English-language networks.
I was wrong.
There was CNN International. And BBC World. And the international service of an Egyptian network. And that was it for English language television.
Everything else — the balance of the 300-odd channels — was in Croatian, Italian, German, French, Arabic, Russian, or one of untold other languages. There was incredible variety, and with the exception of a couple of subtitled episodes of Mad About You, it was all original non-U.S. television.
Now of course you can only watch so much television in Arabic, as a non-Arabic speaker, before you get overwhelmed by a lack of ability to understand. So I can’t say as though we watched a lot of television that night (although we did get sucked into watching the Italian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire).
But I did come to understand just how much my view of television is biased towards thinking of it as an American invention with primarily American content. Something that is only reinforced by our short-sighted Canadian policy of forcing Canadians to only watch Canadian television (or American television with a Canadian veneer). By working to buttress our own culture against the elephant of America, we have, perhaps inadvertently, filtered out the rest of the world too.
On this note: I swear that I came across an ad, perhaps in Ljubljana, for a paperback-sized device that allowed one to receive digital television, anywhere in the world, over broadband. But I’ve had no luck in finding references to such a device now that I’m home. If anyone knows what I saw, I’d welcome a pointer.