TV or Not TV

I have recently been asked to contemplate living my London life without a TV. Now anyone who knows me, knows I love TV – so this is a very big ask. My boyfriend, the one issuing this request, makes the argument that all the content we ever watch or want to watch, is available online.

Now that we’re in the UK, we have access to the BBC iPlayer, 4OD, ITV player, and that’s before you get into the rake of dodgy websites which aggregate and stream videos. So apparently, the £20 a month and the £145 licence fee, are not worth the expenditure anymore.

I’m finding it difficult to put together convincing counter arguments. We’ll still have the actual TV screen to hook up our laptops to – as hunching over a laptop isn’t the most satisfying viewing experience – so screen size is not the issue.

Live TV was my next argument. There are some events – sport for people who aren’t me – and  X Factor, that need to be experienced as they happen. You lose the excitement and the sense of public participation, if you can’t watch them on the night. However I’ve just been directed to the pretty nifty TV Catch Up, which streams live TV with just a minor delay.

Then there’s ease of watching. Sometimes you just want to switch on the box, and watch whatever’s on, without having to choose a specific programme. I’m citing Laziness as an excuse here, but it’s a genuine needstate for me.

There’s also Serendipity, discovering new content by fortuitous accident. It’s fantastic that we can now curate every piece of content to suit our personalised tastes – but you do risk missing out on those lucky finds from flicking.

Furthermore, uber-tailored viewing creates an entrenched perspective on the world, as you only seek out content which already fits in with your interests and opinions. We need to be challenged through exposure to opposing perspectives, or we’ll all end up as militant fundamentalists.

Finally, there’s one last saving grace for traditional TV – and that’s the future of TV. I’m talking about the 2-screen revolution. At the moment, most of my media meshing is unrelated. So I’m watching Corrie on TV, but ASOS shopping on my laptop. However, increasingly we’re seeing a new host of programmes which are creating realtime participation intrinsically intwined with what’s on screen. This isn’t mindless tweeting alongside the Eurovision. This is Seven Days in Notting Hill, where the online participation of viewers is central to the onscreen narrative.

It’s not quite there yet, but it’s intriguing. So for the moment, I think I’d like to keep my TV and my laptop as separate devices.

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    • Stephanie Courtney
    • October 21st, 2010

    Neassa, your points about new programming, entrenchment and fundamentalism are right on the money. I’m commenting as someone who has been (and hopefully will be) on the content creation side of things for TV. There is a critical mass or a tipping point of general TV viewership and criticism that has to occur before the Grey’s Anatomys, Dexters, Wires, Sex in the Citys, etc gain notoriety. Some people will want to be on the back end of that so they already know something is worth their while before they invest their precious time, but others – like you – who love the medium and relish finding the new, the off beat and the interesting are actually absolutely necessary to this process. If content creators lose people like you to the ‘TV on Demand’ model, sooner or later there won’t be anything new to discover – and the plurality of genres, storylines and points of view will continue to deminish until only homogenous formulas are used to create content because that will be the only way to garner veiwership.

    On the flip side, at some point ‘TV’ will go the way of independant music (when production costs come down a bit more and when content gets a lot better) and then the new shows you are looking for will be solely web based – but we’re a way off from that just yet.

      • Neasa Cunniffe
      • October 21st, 2010

      Fascinating point Steph – I hadn’t even thought through the reprecussions for future content if the most ardent TV viewers go too far down their own interest pathway.

  1. Hey Neasa,

    I think you still need a licence if a TV set is in your house! But that aside, I think you’ve hit on something here. People seem to love asking for their fave songs to be played on radio, when the net/ipods means we can access them whenever we want. I remember reading that the Morecambe & Wise Xmas specials in the late 70s would have about half the viewing audience of the UK. Broadcast media (as distinct from narrowcast) are a source of communal feeling; we like to know that our tastes are somehow refelcted by a national institution, and that living rooms around the country ‘share’ or endorse our preference. Hard drive TV downloads/web TV turn broadcast into ‘pico’cast. That’s just a part of it, but your post really yot me thinking.

  2. TVs are TVs. Snakes are snakes. Trash in, trash out. How we spend our moments is how we spend our lives. Is not life 10000 times too short to consider watching TV? Consider the trees, the ants, the library, the major scales on the guitar. Christ, consider small-scale farming, the sanest, hippest thing going—consider something, anything. just be it original, creative, real.

    Kill tv dead. Stone dead..

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