Friday, July 11, 2008

The Great Digital Rip to Reach Millbrook

Wandering home down Union Street today I spotted a poster in a bus shelter that would appear to be the start of the public information campaign about the switch over from analogue to digital television signal.

I think I remember correctly that the poster said something like "The South West Television Region Goes Digital in 2009".

Now, I'm a bit of what I like to think of as a neo-Luddite (yes, I use a steam driven laptop to write this stuff, but that's the age we live in).

Why do we need digital television? Even more importantly, why do they need to switch off the analogue signal?

The analogue signal uses very little energy and is (apart from having to pay the BBC licence fee) free. Effectively the airwaves over which the existing television signal floats belong to us all. By shutting off this signal and broadcasting in digital format only the very act of broadcasting itself becomes privatised. Once again, the great British public is being quietly ripped off; its own property being taken away and replaced by something that has to be paid for. Who gets paid? Oh, goodness me, it's the larger media tycoons like Murdoch who will be reaping the principal benefits.

And what benefits will this compulsory extra expenditure bring to the television watching public? More channels - hooray. It's not as if they have any difficulty filling the current number of channels with high quality, gripping and informative programmes, is it?

Better picture quality. Well, did you honestly even know you wanted better picture quality as you thrilled to the Borg v McEnroe Wimbledon finals? Did you think as you watched whatever your favourite drama was in 1990, this would be so much better in pin sharp, digital format? No, you didn't. It's all a massive triumph of marketing over need.

One more point - a digital broadcast uses a huge amount more electricity (and thus massively increases our carbon emissions) than an analogue one. This will increase your bills, which I'm sure are high enough already, and make the country's generating requirements a great deal higher.

So - I can only recommend being a refusnik. Why give them the satisfaction? Here at Millbrooker Towers we've been TV free since 2002 and honestly haven't missed it one bit. We spend evenings talking and drinking decent wine. If we aren't feeling talkative we read a book or the newspaper. We listen to loads of music - in our television free years, we've discovered masses of new sounds to bring pleasure to our ears.

Take the plunge; when you feel forced to buy a new "set-top box" or, worse, a new TV set altogether because they won't let you watch your old one anymore without paying out for nothing that's worth having - just say "no". You can always watch important sporting events (if that's your bag) at a local pub in return for the price of a pint or a cup of coffee (great value against the TV licence). Try going TV free for a while, you might surprise yourself at how easy and pleasurable it is.

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