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.


  1. True. Just re-located countries and moved into a new house. Haven't got around to buying a TV set yet, and don't really see the point, even with 2 teenagers. They have their laptops and there's an iPad kicking around to watch things on iPlayer. No landline either - what's the point?

  2. I ditched the landline a year ago. Number of times somebody has wanted to use it or it would have come in handy: 0.

  3. We haven't owned a TV set since 2002, which has provoked many comments over the years from concerned friends - 'what do you do with yourselves?', 'how do you exist?' and daftest of all, 'what do you point your chairs towards?'

  4. I doubt it. You only have to look at Twitter to see how scheduled TV still has people watching.

    Personally I don't want to watch things on computer screens and I'm not alone.

    The way we watch TV is changing, but it'll be a very long time before schedules are abandoned for good.

    I'm expecting to see lots of comments here from those who proclaim loudly they don't watch TV anymore - but they're always the first ones to ask what's happening in EastEnders.

    It's an elitist attitude stemming all the way back to when TV was new and considered a bit vulgar. It's not of course. There's really no shame in enjoying watching television.

  5. Agreed Jon,even the stuff I download I still watch on a TV sat on a comfy sofa instead of an office chair.

  6. The day after posting my comment about not having a TV I got a TV Licence demand. Joannne Osborne of TV Licensing Customer Services obviously doesn't read this blog.

  7. I think maybe that is the downside of so called Progressing.

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  8. The joy of TV is that after a hard day at work you just turn it on and wallow. And sometimes actually find things you would not have found otherwise. A bit like browsing in a bookshop rather than looking for a specific item on some behemoth book aggregator (I do not think of Amazon and its ilk as booksellers).

  9. I'm with the wallowing thing. "What's on the telly?" is still heard at least once a day in our house, even if it's just something to watch while we have tea (or 'dinner', if you're reading this down south) - and there is always something.

    Live tweeting 'event' television (and current affairs stuff like Question Time and Newsnight) is a recent phenomenon which will help keep the habit of watching scheduled telly alive. You can't do that if you're time-shifting.