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Monday, December 03, 2012

The obsolete box in the corner

Downstairs in our sitting room is a piece of furniture I have recently come to regard as obsolete. It's a television.

Since we had it connected to a Freeview box my wife complains she can't easily tune it to the channels she wants and so she doesn't turn it on much. She catches up on the few things she wants to watch on the iPlayer via an iPad. Most of our kids have grown and, in the words of Randy Newman, "they have TVs of their own". The one who's studying at home no longer bothers with a TV in her bedroom. She watches whatever she watches on a laptop. Most of the TV I watch isn't live. When it's football or rugby I go to the pub to watch.  The family hardly ever gather to watch the same thing.

The upshot of this is there's never an occasion in our house when somebody asks what time something's on and then settles down accordingly. Which means we must be beyond the reach of the TV schedulers. Scheduling is ultimately what TV's about. TV plays lip service to the idea of creating exciting programming but mostly they just trundle their output into slots where experience has taught them a given group of people will be on the sofa waiting to watch.

The traditional power of TV and radio has derived from their power to make large numbers of people do the same thing at the same time. This is changing. Already more teenagers follow pop music on You Tube than on radio. My children are growing up with little of no awareness of channels or broadcasters. They already resent the idea that units of entertainment can be held back in order to help an organisation sell advertising or boost ratings.

I'm already seriously considering life without a landline. The next thing to go will be that big box in the corner.