Monday, October 30, 2006

TV or not TV?

I spent around 20 hours this weekend with colleagues working on a grant proposal to secure funding from the US State Department. We are desperately in need of funding. NGOs in general are having a hard time getting funding for projects in Angola because donors know that the Angolan government is filthy rich (at least compared to other developing countries) and can afford to fund the majority of development initiatives in this country. The US and European governments think, “Why should we give Angola more money? They have plenty in their oil coffers.” Understandable, but what you see on paper does not reflect the reality in Angola. Yes, the Angolan state is rich; but no, they do not share that money with the Angolan people in the form of development projects.

We as an organization have an added burden because we have an institutional policy that prevents us from taking money from oil companies. Other international NGOs admire our position- there is a lot of conflict surrounding oil money and many NGOs have a guilty conscious about taking it. Since we do economic justice and advocacy work regarding oil and other extractive industries (diamonds, for example), it would be a conflict of interest for us to take money from those companies. This is great in principle; but not so great when it comes to the practicality of US government grants. The US government currently offers many grants through public-private partnerships. In Angola this means you can get, for example, a USAID grant with money from the US government and Chevron. As a result, we cannot apply for a lot of grants.

So this State Department grant is a big deal; we really need the money and expand our programming areas. This is all a very long explanation for the current internal debate I am having. We did most of the work at the country director’s (Juan) house. He has satellite cable with English language channels. I was with Juan a few weeks ago when he signed the contract for the cable and asked him how much it cost per month. He answered, “US$400” which I thought was a bit much; I quickly got rid of any desire to have cable and give up my two fuzzy Angolan options.

As we were working this weekend, we would take breaks to catch up on regional news: the airplane crash outside of Abuja, Nigeria and the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sergey, another colleague friend asked how much Juan paid for the cable. Suddenly the answer was $60! I was shocked! Apparently the $400 was the initial cost for the dish and the set up fee, and included 3 free months of service.

Now, my dilemma is the following: do I get digital cable? Tell me what you think.
Here are the pros/cons:
· Something to kill the boredom, which is prevalent at nights and on weekends
· English language news (CNN, SKY, BBC)
· Entertainment (Brazilian telenovelas)
· Still have access to Angolan networks
· American movies and television series (The Daily Show!)
· Missing the $60/month wouldn’t be a problem since there’s nothing else for me to spend my money on
· The $400 set-up fee
· $60/month means $60 less for vacation
· I would be watching TV ALL THE TIME, and probably read less


mas2df said...

$400? Thats a bit steep. I would lean a new hobby instead of getting cable. Its overrated.

mas2df said...

Plus $60 a month isnt exactly cheap for cable. The wrath of cable companies knows no international boundaries.

lynette said...

how do you say no to "dancing w/ the stars?" what a dilemma!

i say save your money for vacations!!! you can catch all the reruns when you return.

sir_chancelot said...

My TV broke a while ago and I don't really miss it. And I never had cable. True, sometimes I just want to veg out in front of the TV, but since that is not an option, I catch up on reading and sleep! I would think that $400 + $60/month would be better spent elsewhere.
I was at Mom and Dad's house the other day and flipping through the channels, I was amazed at the total garbage there is on TV! It's downright insulting. The internet is better--at least you can choose what you want to see and not see.

mas2df said...

Very surprising response from Sir_chancealot on the sad state of tv. Sounds like someone has a case of sour grapes...