I accepted, long ago, that I am in a minority. On many issues that is true, but today I referring to the minority of not owning a television. I gave my set away three houses ago and don’t miss it in the slightest.
In these days of near-solid TV ownership, why do people choose not to own one of the boxes that sits in the corner of the room (or rooms, as is more often the case these days)? Well, I can only speak for me, and I do accept that there’s some good television these days; documentaries, news, Dr Who, Star Trek anything else sci-fi related … and I hear stories that fiction doesn’t have to be sci-fi based, but I think they’re ugly rumours.
However (and it’s a big however), there’s also a lot of dross in a great morass of devastating-badly programming; reality TV, for instance. Big Brother, Celebrity in the Jungle, and so on are all utter rubbish; when the first series of Big Brother came out, Channel 4 sold it as a fascinating study of human nature. Rubbish. Of course it’s not. It’s mind-numbing nonsense but people still enjoy it – although, thankfully, ratings are falling.
I despair of dross TV; people argue that it’s good to have programmes that you can “switch off” to. I can understand that; it’s good to relax, but we risk turning our brains off and not being able to ever turn them back on again when we subject ourselves to a diet of dross rather than quality – and whatever that quality is can be different from person to person. When we stuff our visual diet full of reality TV, so-called “gritty” programmes (in truth, stupid, nonsensical episodes where people continually shout and scream and cry and shout some more), and comedy shows that just aren’t funny or intelligent, I can almost see our collective IQ shunting down by a few points.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not anti-TV. I like some TV, and I’m absolutely not telling you what to watch; I’m merely making the point that some contributions to the daily scheduling are better filled with fresh air than the brain-shrivelling nonsense being peddled as high-quality programmes that blur entertainment and fact (sounds familiar …). One the odd occasion I’ve sat through five minutes of something awful I could almost feel my brain seeping out through my ears.
One odd thing about not owning a TV; the TV Licencing Authority really don’t believe you. I get sent occasional letters from them reminding me of the stiff penalties I’ll incur if I don’t report any TV ownership. The tone of the letter insinuates that they will take great glee in fining me when- not – I’m clearly fraudulent. The thought that I genuinely don’t possess such a piece of technology – despite regular assurances from me that I don’t – doesn’t seem to have entered their minds. I have written back to them and invited them to come and take a look round my flat; I rather enjoy showing it off anyway, and maybe it’ll convince the inspectors that I’m telling the truth.