By Amelia A. Pridemore
Are 20 movie channels on demand just not enough?
Do constant reruns of “I Love the ’80s” on VH1 have you ready to gouge out your eyeballs?
Then come to Al Jessup’s house — where his 5,000-plus radio and television stations from around the world beamed in by his 12 satellite dishes are bound to keep you entertained somehow.
Since 1998, the Beckley resident has amassed a collection of 12 dishes around his James Street home. He said he first just began subscribing to Direct TV and Dish Network, but he later learned that by purchasing special satellite receivers he could receive “free to air” programming from several different satellites swirling the globe. The information on how to adjust a dish and set up a receiver to pick up programming from these stations such as Galaxy 10, AMC 2 and Telestar 5 is included with these receivers.
“Up in the sky, there’s lots of free stuff,” he said.
Over the years, the 54-year-old disabled former ice cream salesman collected more and more dishes so he could pick up more and more “free to air” channels. Neighbors, he said, never complained about his large display of dishes in front of his house. In fact, some of his dishes were hand-me-downs from his neighbors.
The last time he counted, he received more than 5,000 channels. He has stopped counting since.
Now, he picks up local stations from Wyoming, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee and Ohio, he said. Being a former resident of both Tennessee and New Orleans, he does like to watch the local news from there, just to see what is happening.
“New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, you name it,” Jessup said. “I get everything but Alaska. But if I pointed something toward Alaska, I’d probably get Alaska.
“... I can scoot one over and see what’s going on in Ohio ... or the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
His Beckley home would likely rival most government communications centers. Not only does he pick up stations from across the country, but across the world as well. He picks up stations from Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Jerusalem and other foreign locations.
“Sometimes they speak English, and sometimes they don’t,” he said. “You never know.
“It’s just interesting to watch stations from far away.”
In his home, Jessup has three television sets, and only one gets the plethora of stations. The other two, he said, just receive his programming from his Direct TV and Dish Network subscriptions.
Because the programming is free, it changes regularly, he noted. Sometimes, a program he likes will disappear and something he dislikes will be put in its place, or vice versa. For example, he once had three ABC stations from Wyoming only to have it reduced to one.
“One day it may be here, the next day it may be gone, the next day it may be back,” he said. “You never know.”
Jessup said some programming includes things he likes, like racing or music, and some of it is, well, “weird.”
Soon, he plans to add a 13th dish to his collection, he said. He may later get a “fancy” satellite dish that is basically like 16 dishes in one. This could eliminate some of the dishes outside his house — or enable him to get even more channels.
“I could point them toward the east where there’s a bunch of satellites running around,” he said. “I don’t know what I would get there.”