Review: The Heritage Broadcasting Service

Heritage catalog
Screenshot courtesy of the Heritage Broadcast Service

Ever set up your new streaming device and wish that with all the many channels and apps available for Roku and FireTV, there should at least be one dedicated to archaeology? The History Channel sold out many years ago to pseudo-history and pseudoarchaeology. Channels like PBS and the Smithsonian are fine, but they cast a wide net of interests.

Well, I encourage you to go to your streaming device and search for the word “Heritage” where you add channels and click on the Heritage Broadcasting Service. Their icon is pretty straightford, but you’ll have to search for it to find it. This is because they’re relatively new, with few current subscribers, and even fewer ratings.

In full disclosure, Rick Petigrew of the Archaeology Channel reached out to me directly and asked if I’d review the channel on this blog. He didn’t offer any discounts or free subscription time, or any swag, etc. Just a short email describing Heritage and where to find it. I’ll put all the links you need at the bottom of this review.

Oh, if you’ve ever listened to podcasts on archaeology, you’ve probably heard of Rick Petigrew and the Archaeology Channel. Their podcast has probably been around over 10-12 years. Back then, it was his podcast was one of maybe three with an archaeological theme.

What I liked

Okay, now for the review. I really enjoyed the diversity of the topics. There’s a lot of archaeology. And a good amount of anthropology. And plenty of history to thread everything together. I watched several shows right off the bat. First, I watched two different programs about the Antikythera mechanism. One, The X-ray Time Machine, focused on the innovative technologies in x-ray tomography that were literally invented to examine the device and the revelations that were discovered with new technology. I learned a little about x-rays and how they’re used that I didn’t previously know. The second, The Antikythera Cosmos, was a very complete overview of the device’s discovery, early hypotheses, and why they were wrong. Interviewed for their expertise where many different archaeologists, horologists, and materials scientists. This was a the single-best source of information on the Antikythera mechanism I could ever recommend.

Another program I thoroughly enjoyed was The Ghost of the Neolithic. With modern climate change, our glaciers are retreating at an alarming rate. But within these glaciers are extremely well preserved artifacts from Neolithic and even Paleolithic periods of human history. In this short documentary, the nearly two-decade work by a team of European archaeologists who visited the initial find-site of a birch bark quiver for arrows that dated to 2800 years ago. One of the archaeologists mentioned that she made over 40 visits to the site in 17 years! Each year they recover a few more artifacts all dating to the same time and from what they believe to be one individual. But they’ve yet to find his remains.

What I didn’t like

Heritage Broadcasting Service icon

There isn’t much I didn’t like. I mean, it’s new, so I’m probably being forgiving of things like the small catalog of programs and very basic menu options. But these aren’t all that serious if the channel grows. There is plenty of programming to keep me occupied for the three months I subscribed for (which starts after a 14-day free trial period). And, if they keep adding content I’ll keep subscribing.

The only thing that might be a negative that caught my attention was the use of the term “aborigines” for native Australians in one of the programs I watched. But the host of the show was being dubbed over by a translator and this can be a strange process. The translator has to work with time-constraints, word-count constraints, etc. So the original context may have been appropriate. The dubbing was directly over the original, audibly subdued words of the host, so I couldn’t make out what was said. As you watch the program, be a little forgiving of this. The overall theme of the show was also one that seemed critical of colonization and supportive of decolonizing Australian heritage, even though this might not have been directly addressed.

I also didn’t like how hard it was to find the channel on my Roku to add it. I figured just searching for it would be the fastest way to find it, but I thought I’d see how hard it was to find in the Roku catalog. It was hard and I gave up, but had many more channels to go by the time I just went to the search bar. That tells me that the channel isn’t all that popular. Yet.

Technical Aspects

The catalog of programs is laid out geographically (North America, Europe, Oceana, etc) and chronologically (Paleolithic, Neolithic, prehistory…) and includes “Hard to Pigeonhole,” “Music,” and “Indigenous.” As you might imagine, some programs fit in multiple categories. You can also tag “favorites,” which might be a nice feature for educators that want to return to a particular show for students.

I signed up online at heritagetac.org using Pay Pal as my payment method. I picked the 3-month plan that automatically renews, and it seems you get a 14-day free trial regardless of what plan you choose. I really like that.

I also liked that it was only $5.99 per month, less than lunch at your favorite burger joint.

After signing up, I went to my Roku and signed in to the channel. The sign in process was easy. I mean, the Roku method of inputting a username and password is a bit of a pain, but it is what it is and has nothing to do with the Heritage application. But, at least I didn’t have to go to my other device, look up a code at an activation page, hope I can memorize it back to the living room, and input that. I like the username/password method much more. Which is what Heritage uses.

There are a lot of non-English titles in the catalog, which I immediately saw as a positive attribute. But, not everyone likes having to deal with subtitles. Rick Pettigrew tells me that they’ll soon add a filter that will allow sorting by English-only audio, so if you’re one of those folks that is challenged to read subtitles and still follow the video, this might be helpful. Still, I recommend turning it off now and then to see what you might be missing.

What I Hope to See

I’d like to see more diversity in the content. But I’m sure this is what the developers have in mind once they get their subscriber base up. A regular program that interviews archaeologists and heritage professionals would be a wonderful addition. Maybe even a “Charlie Rose” style program where archaeologists are sitting around a big, round poker table, sipping coffee and sharing anecdotes that reveal their backgrounds, projects, conflicts, goals, and so on.

And, since my blog often focuses on reviewing fake, fraudulent, and fantastic archaeology, I’d love to see a program that features an archaeologist that takes one or two people on a tour of sites and locations associated with pseudoarchaeological claims. Not just to debunk the claim, but to share with the viewer–the consumer–what’s really cool about these sites without having to resort to aliens, giants, and the like. I happen to know an archaeologist that would love to host such a show. <wink>

Coming up

The following is straight from Richard M. Pettigrew, Ph.D., RPA and president of The Archaeology Channel and Heritage Broadcasting Service.

November 1

We will have these three new titles: 

Pray: Around the world, people of all ages pray—from childhood to old age. The Japanese notably have made a habit of praying for the last thousand years and more. At about 100,000 Shinto shrines all across Japan, they pray for mother-nature, the blessing of newborn babies, children, weddings, and more, by conducting rituals, ceremonies and festivals. This film immerses the viewer into the unique ways of Japanese religion and culture, as practiced regularly in multitudes of locations all across Japan, through the age-old Japanese traditions of prayer. 

Moccasins and Microphones: Modern Native Storytelling through Performance Poetry: Modern Native Storytelling through Performance Poetry explores the fascinating world of a dynamic team of indigenous youth writers from the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS) in New Mexico. Led by teacher and poet Timothy P. McLaughlin, the SFIS Spoken Word Program empowers its student members to create and perform original poems centered in Native philosophies. Over an eight-year history, the exquisite artistry of this ever-evolving team has been highly recognized through numerous awards, a bevy of media appearances including in The New York Times and on The PBS News Hour, and performance tours throughout the United States and to the Baltic nations in Eastern Europe. This documentary film journeys with the SFIS Spoken Word Team as the core group (including several graduating twelfth graders) prepares and presents a theater production of their finest poems woven with traditional and contemporary song and dance. The young SFIS poets will enchant your heart and enliven your spirit as they continue the ancient tradition of Native storytelling through the powerful new medium of performance poetry. 

Grab and Run: After the Kyrgyzstan Independence in 1991, the ancient practice of Ala-Kachuu (“grab and run”) returned. Some women escape the men that kidnap them, but many remain married because of tradition and the fear of scandal. 

On November 15

We will put up Strata Season 8, Episode 2, featuring the film, “Layers of Pompeii.”  Here’s the synopsis: This documentary film approaches contemporary Pompeii with an ethnographic lens, exploring the range of reasons tourists have for visiting the site while giving voice to those who interpret, maintain, and study the ancient Roman city. What is unearthed exposes disjuncture between the modern city surrounding the archaeological park and the site itself, but also the fragile state of the city “frozen in time.”

Conclusion

The Heritage Broadcasting Service is off to a really good start. The content available right now is fairly extensive, especially if it continues to grow. There are a lot of stand-alone documentaries and several series in the catalog now that are well-worth watching.

The price is right at only $5.99 per month (somewhat less if you bill annually).

If you’re an educator and you want some quality programming to use, this is right for you. Especially if you’re a homeschool parent. If you’re a parent that wants quality screen time for your children, this is the right channel. They will learn and be challenged to think about the world around them.

If you’re an archaeologist or heritage professional, you should be jumping at the chance to give them your Five Bucks! Skip that Five Guys trip and subscribe now! This channel might be the very thing we’ve been waiting for that will counter the Ancient Aliens nuttery on the History Channel. You won’t find Josh Gates on this channel either. If a program on this channel is sensational, it’s because the content that the program is about is just simply fascinating. And deeply interesting.

Give Heritage a look. Sign up for a single month and get the 14-day free trial. If you don’t like it, cancel within 14 days and your credit card or pay pal will not be charged. If you forget, the worst is you’re out $6. But I’m betting you’ll find $6 worth of programming. In fact, I’m betting most who sign up, keep the Heritage Broadcasting Service and keep going back for more archaeological and anthropological-related programming.

Edit: I’d like to add that their related podcast, Audio News from Archaeologica, has been up and running without a break since June 2001, which is more than two decades.  It’s archaeology’s longest-running audio program, and it’s very popular. If you haven’t already, you should check it out!

Links

The Heritage Broadcasting Service
The Archaeology Channel

About Carl Feagans 373 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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