Digital switchover turns me right off
For reasons beyond my control, this week I spent 4 and a half hours of my life with some people charged with making sure that televisual viewers living in the latest television area to be switched entirely to digital (London area, including Essex, Crystal Palace transmitter in April in case you care) are aware of what they need to do to get digital into their lives. This is because, I discovered, the very worst thing that could befall us in the 21st century is that we could wake up to a Blank Screen. The ‘catastrophe’ of the Blank Screen was emotively told through individual examples of society’s disconnect from other people, family, and community. What was terrifying was that the television was being sold as an answer to this symptom of a dysfunctional society, a panacea for the masses, and not acknowledged as a potential contributory factor in social exclusion.
Turns out that the other key message is that ‘no-one should be left behind’ in the digital switchover and suffer the armageddon of a blank screen in their lives. To this end, money, and I dread to think how much given that no less than four people were employed to deliver the workshop (although they were pretty tight with the post-it notes), is being spent on a three-pronged outreach strategy so that no-one is ‘left behind’ come the day, come the hour.
All this was delivered with unfaltering confidence and belief in the healing power of telly. No-one seemed to get that those who might be left behind with a blank screen, their target audience, have perhaps already been left behind in today’s strange society. For example we were given an example of some poor guy who lay dead in his flat in Brent, undiscovered for three years. I was left to wonder what it was they were trying to illustrate to us: it would have been less likely to happen if his tv was digital, or at least he had a wider choice of free channels to entertain him before he sadly died and laid undiscovered?
The whole thing was madly topsy-turvy. They are switching analogue off ostensibly because we can get more free channels and better quality picture. But scratch the surface and you will see that they can pack the digital signals more tightly which means they (the government) can sell more broadcast licenses and then the switched off analogue will be re-allocated and those licenses sold on again… These guys are selling fresh air folks, what a wheeze.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t like to think of my grandmother, in her late eighties, without access to tv, but neither would I like to think of her (one of the scenarios we were run through more than once) timing her whole life through the programming schedule of digital tv: breakfast tv – eat, take pills, Loose Women – repeat, and so on. This was taken as far as the following statements: tv is part of a care package, tv has been ‘proven’ to speed the recovery of people in hospital – ‘fact’.
I have tried, but I can’t find this scientific fact about the healing powers of tv and even if I did I would ask what the healing powers of tv were compared to, lying in your own faeces and staring at a wall when you can’t afford the fiver a day it costs to watch Andrew Landsley’s political party broadcast?
I need to stop now because I can feel a rant coming on…
If I didn’t suspect it before, I now know: television is the new state religion.
P.S. If you don’t know what I am talking about please leave a comment and I can deluge you with a tsunami (what I hitherto thought of as an actual catastrophe before I was told it was a blank screen) of beer mats, book marks, leaflets, posters, pens, pharmacy bags, stickers and a story book of information overload. Then if you are over 75, blind, or in receipt of certain benefits (that class you as an economic benefit unit – nice) I can point you in the direction of the service where for anywhere between £40 – £233 you can get all set. If you are not eligible – tough – sort it out yourself and make sure you open the letter they are sending us all.