Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A year without TV

So it's been a year. A year ago I moved house and didn't unpack the TV. It was a nice TV: a 42" flat panel display which when connected to the right sort of cable receiver could be used to watch broadcast TV. With the TV in a box, I never subscribed to any cable or satellite service. My house is without a TV receiver of any kind.

And I don't miss it. Only occasionally do I get that urge to switch on the goggle box and just watch some nonsense to se changer les idées (take my mind off things).

The real revelation came when I was staying in a hotel and for the first time ever simply didn't switch the hotel TV on. I knew that there was nothing worth seeing on it.

That's not to say that I haven't watched TV programmes. I'm an avid follower of 24 which I've watched by buying season pass via the iTunes Store. I've made use on occasion of the BBC iPlayer watching a total of 11 programmes in the last year (thank you iPlayer for keeping a record). The most interesting of those programs were The Secret Life of Chaos and Chemisty: A Volatile History.

And I've watched lots of movies through the DVD subscription service LoveFilm (the most recent of which was Skin).

Amusingly, I succumbed to the idea of watching rubbish on TV and decided to watch the most recent episode of So you think you can dance. It was a wonderful reminder of why I don't have a TV. In fact, it was like being parachuted into a strange world filled with consistently ugly, shallow people wearing too much make up. It was only by being away from TV for so long that I saw it like that, I'm sure if I'd been watching TV all along I would never have noticed (just like the proverbial frog being slowly heated in a pan of water).

But the thing I miss the least is TV news. It's all about panic and fear and not about analysis. I seriously wonder how much harm TV news is doing to society.

The nice thing is that the Internet can kill TV without killing TV programmes. I'm very happy to pay to rent DVDs and pay to buy individual programs. If the BBC hadn't made the programmes cited above available freely I would have been very tempted to pay for them individually.

I realize that some readers will wonder why I would pay for content when I could probably download it and violate copyright for free. The main reason is guaranteed quality. I probably could spend my time searching for those programmes on some torrent site, but just as I don't want to waste time channel hopping for something good to watch, I don't want to waste my time downloading torrents only to find they are corrupt, incomplete or overdubbed in Urdu.

It's a simple trade-off: I'll give copyright holder $X if they'll guarantee that I get a high quality copy of their programme when I want it.

Another proposed solution is the PVR. This is a bizarre solution which when compared to paying to download programmes from the Internet seems almost ridiculous. It works like this. You pay to receive a random selection of TV programmes broadcast at times you do not select. You then pay to have a device that you must programme to wake up and record those programmes so that you can then watch them when you want. You have to tell the PVR what programmes you want to watch before you know about them; you can't subsequently decide to watch something.



Blogger Christopher Lord said...

We did the same thing when we moved to our new place a couple of years ago. it was surprisingly easy, and we've been much more active on our side-projects since then.

1:51 PM  
Blogger godseyeview said...

you still watch dumbass tv "programming".
they give u the whole emotional experience so that afterwards ur programmed to a certain feeling.
Its called tv programming.
it'll rewired your brain.
you dont wanna call'em programs.
you wanna call'em shows.
I haven't had tv in 10 years and dont watch mind controlling big media programs. Hopefully one day you will be free.

1:54 PM  
Blogger ZeusTheTrueGod said...

I don't watch tv because I can choose what I want to see myself. And I can simple download anything from torrents / dc++ , mostly nature or action films.

tv should pay me a lot to make me watch their ad. Yeah, I don't have ad at all in the browser - thanks to adblock and readability firefox addons

2:11 PM  
Blogger Albert said...

"But the thing I miss the least is TV news. It's all about panic and fear and not about analysis. I seriously wonder how much harm TV news is doing to society."

In Spain, the TV news are titled "Telenoticias". I used to call them "Teledesgracias"--lots of "blood and liver" as one eats dinner.

I haven't watched TV since I used to leave at my parents. That's 13 years ago. Going to college and being suddenly too busy and too poor and to time-pressed pushed me off TV; then, on seeing it again--in the weekends or at a hotel--I have the same reaction that you describe: nothing to see, move along.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Brett said...

I'm curious about your distinction between 24 and So You Think You Can Dance, specifically why one is worth avidly following and the other is rubbish involving shallow people with too much makeup.

24 is full of the panic and fear you degrade TV news for, made up of nothing that is real or based on reality. So You Think You Can Dance, while definitely a stilted "reality" show, involves real human beings doing absolutely amazing things with their bodies in space. Making a distinction of one show being worth your time and the other being rubbish starts to sound more like a personal choice than any real analysis of the merits.

2:57 PM  
Blogger John Graham-Cumming said...

24 vs. TV News. TV news claims to reflect reality whereas 24 does not. 24 is a fantasy that appeals on many levels. It's ok for it to be filled with fear and panic, but I don't feel fear or panic while watching it. On the other TV news is trying to instill fear and panic.

24 vs. So you think you can dance. Both are manufactured experiences. One uses professional actors, the other uses ordinary people. Of the two So you think you can dance is manipulative. 24 is fantasy.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Roridge said...

Did you still buy a TV Licence?

3:02 PM  
Blogger Brett said...

Interesting. I see 24 as a the other side of the coin to TV news. The show is trying to convince you that these horrible things really could happen in New York City or wherever. They need to convince you that it's possible so that you buy in.

I think all TV is manipulative in some way or the other. Regardless of whether 24 is fantasy or not, it is still manipulative. If it wasn't, you wouldn't watch it. It is manipulating your emotions to become involved in the show through those manufactured experiences. It all comes down to what you prefer in your manipulated experiences. You like an element of fantasy. Some people like watching people dance. Different strokes and all that.

3:27 PM  
Blogger jbw said...

I did the same thing two years ago when I moved, I simply did not pay to hook up cable. I do, however, still use iTunes, Hulu, Amazon On Demand and others to watch select programs. On the whole, it's far cheaper to do it that way, still legal, and you get to watch what you want on your schedule.

4:06 PM  
Blogger John Graham-Cumming said...

No, I do not have a TV license.

4:35 PM  
Blogger CoryMathews said...

I think you missed the point to a tv in this.

Why would you settle to watch your episodes of 24 on a laptop when you have a 42" tv? Your settling for less.

I will agree though I do not like cable tv at all I have not watched it in a couple of months (ever since I signed up for netflix). I however do love my 42" tv. I play games and watch movies ect.

Just because you have a tv does not mean you watch cable.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Matt Doar said...

We haven't had live TV since 2001. We have plenty of DVDs, Netflix, local video stores etc. I just can't bear the adverts. Mind you, when I'm alone in a hotel room the banality of live TV is engrossing. So many twisted murders and meaningless waffling, quite amazing.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Wojtek Swiatek said...

It is always interesting to me (being an open liberal hedonist you-name-it) to see how the big ugly TV broadcasts which try to rewire your brain attract protesters of all kinds. It reminds me the zealous homeopaths who defend their "science" (this is obviously targetted towards someone with a PhD in Physics :))

I have a TV and I am happy to have it. I watch about 4 hours of various stuff over the week, some are great, some are garbage.

The garbage is either a background noise when surfing (yes, this could have been classical music) or the kind of show you watch because you started to watch it (kinda like eating at McDonald's - this is not good, this is not healthy but there is this part of being the James Dean of modern times when everyone is nice, clever, healthy and eats BIO food).

I watched surprisingly good things on TV by just zapping randomly. Sometimes this is a movie I would have never watched otherwise, sometimes this is an info about the history of Burma -- I do not remember much of it but at least now I know where Burma is located. I would not have downloaded this (even if it was available, which is usually not the case in France). Hey, I would have never looked for it in the first place.

For me the creepy danger is Internet. It is the place where you only find pedopornography, facebook,flash games and cricket results. Nothing else. Really!

5:52 AM  

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