Why I pulled the plug on my TV

Posted on April 23, 2012

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That black mirror that sat on top of a makeshift table in my bedroom was a glorified piece of junk that couldn’t pick up a decent reception if Prince Charles’s ears were antennas and a remote control with the channel numbers that wouldn’t respond. While I had the chance to buy a freeview or Sky box, I passed on the opportunity to Believe In Better. Therefore I decided to quite literally pull the plug on my five channels of terrestrial television that until last week were free to air, but have now vanished into thin air.

In my mind, this almost feels inevitable. For so long, I had made my feelings pretty clear on what I think of the state of programming over the last decade. To say that the television executives have been scraping the barrel for ideas is quite the understatement. That well ran dry a long time ago. BBC Three and ITV2 demonstrate that there’s no low, no depth that won’t be plummeted, or z-listers with no class that they won’t attempt to reign in the toughest of demographics: teens. Those with attention spans equating to the same amount of seconds as the IQ of the collective cast of Hollyoaks.

But with the amount of channels that are now available via Freeview, it might seem a paradox to ask this, but is there much choice? I guarantee that at some point today, when you’re sat down after a long day from work, you’ll be channel hopping. Flicking through station after station of repeats, tawdry game shows from the 90’s and Top Gear. On average, per week I would watch around 4-5 hours watching tv. And I was pretty select: The Simpsons, Channel 4 News, Newsnight and Question Time. Off the top of my head that’s what I remember anyway from last week. There’s a terrible irony in the Simpsons being my favourite show, with Homer Simpson so dependent on his beloved box. Fortunately, Russia Today and Al Jazeera ply me with news that don’t have a slant on interests pertaining to Western government agendas.

In 1997, Brass Eye on Channel 4 had a very short spoofed skit of a multiple choice ‘snog, marry or avoid’ situation. Off the top of my head I can’t quite remember what the title exactly was but it’s almost heralded where we’re at in 2012. But it’s an indictment of where we are as a nation – we’re the guilty party in as much as being responsible for viewing figures the way they are for TOWIE for instance. Or Jersey Shore. Or Geordie Shore. Or Teen Mom. Or the Jeremy Kyle Show.

And don’t get me kicking off on Saturday night television. If I have to watch one more street dance group on Britain’s Got Talent or have to hear them talk on how they’re something refreshing or in any way ‘different’, I might just kick them mid-air while one of them does a somersault. Then again, maybe I won’t need to now I’ve killed my television. Staying on the subject, ratings are all important, but does there seem to be any adequate alternatives? Most people I know that do watch the X Factor or BGT watch it for the sheer spectacle of zooming close ups, hype and heightened melodrama that it entails, rather than the actual conveyor belt of ‘talent’. It was a lot to take. I felt so exposed to something that didn’t really feel altogether real. But what is exactly when it comes to TV? It’s escapism from the drudgery of 9-5’s, paying bills and signal failures on the tube making us 20 minutes late for work at least twice a week.

It’s all in the name – television programming. Let me repeat that again. tele-vision-programming. You’re being programmed to view something in an attempt to be made to think and act a certain way. A propagandist tool being used against the masses. And they would appear to be winning against the people’s collective will. Not that I want to blow the fanfare of socialism. This is a populist blog after all. The American comedian Eddie Griffin has a routine that gives the young people in the audience a challenge of not watching the idiot box for a week and see how they fare. He feigns a junkie going cold turkey in dire need of his next fix, no matter what channel it was tuned into. It alters and shapes moods, feelings and generally just makes you feel like crap. Especially with those patronising Cheryl Cole L’Oreal adverts telling me I’m worth it. The late Bill Hicks was so on point: if you work in advertising in marketing, kill yourselves.

The digital switch-over after ages of reminders and that animated little robot with his powers of persuasion failed to turn me over to the dark side. Even if BBC Four is available to me. Even though I was a light user so to speak of the telly box, watching adverts midway through shows almost had me in a convulsive rage with iPad and Google ads using twee cover songs by female singer-songwriters and a chronology of watching a kid growing up through passing years to market their goods. If they won’t pull the plug on that, then I will. And I’ve never felt in a better mood. Where there was once a box not so long ago, are now books, records and my phone being charged.

And another thing being a light user: I barely had time for the TV. With me working, writing, reading, exercising at the gym, yoga, spinning, swimming, playing football and just living a life, It’s not like I’ll be missing it any time soon. Unless I want to watch the Simpsons. Still, there’s the living room for that I guess.

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Posted in: Counter culture, News