As many have noted, our national memory is meager: if the Fifties and even Vietnam seem as remote as the Peloponnesian wars, it is partly because each American generation neglects to pass on its experience to the next; outside of the university, we don't respect our history, as Europeans do. Our talent is for living in the present: that elation is beguiling during spells of relative calm, but each new crisis sends us reeling--because it seems unprecedented, and because the past itself is suspect: arthritic as well as old.
-- Nora Sayre1
Guerrilla television's failure to create a viable alternative to commercial television was not due merely to the shortcomings of individuals. Larger forces operating in society influenced and ultimately prevented the dream from becoming reality. Born out of the counterculture's clash with establishment values and institutions, guerrilla television was subject to the counterculture's disillusionment and disintegration. Guerrilla television's future was also conditioned by its technology, by rapid developments in the recording and broadcast transmission of video that transformed the medium from an oddity to a novelty to a banality, altering its power to challenge the status quo almost overnight. And, perhaps most important, guerrilla television existed within the shifting landscape of American television: the boom-bust-boom of the U.S. cable industry; the contentious rise of public broadcasting and public funding for the media arts; the transformation of network television from a powerful tripartite monopoly industry to struggling competitors within a multichannel world; and changing federal policies toward broadcast regulation. Although guerrilla television was a player in determining the outcome of certain of these changes, it was only a pawn in a larger game.