MEDiA: Sounding Off About TV

Goggle-box addiction…

Blur’s second album, released 1993, featured a painting of a steam train – the Mallard, for any interested trainspotters – on the front, and was called Modern Life Is Rubbish.

Blur, Modern Life...
Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish.

Not much longer before that, in ’92, Spruce Bongstein released a single called 57 Channels (and Nothin’ On). Now, it’s not that I’m particularly fond of Blur or The Boss, but…

57 channels
Choice… what choice?

… somewhere in the mix between these two items of contemporary culture you can get a whiff of what I think of most modern TV.

First off, as per my recent post on my loathing of TV and other advertising (online, cinema, oh, and billboards in public spaces, etc.), almost all channels currently available are blighted by the evils of modern advertising.

They Live
They Live…
They Live
… part cheesy ’80s horror, part documentary.

Even the venerable aulde BBC seems under threat, with questions over the license fee, and ever-creeping commercialisation, most recently manifested in the launching of the BBC Store. In my view we’ve already paid for all this content, via our license fees. It’s not very public service spirited to then sell us access to the archives.

Virgin Media
Yep, that about sums it up.

At present we have Virgin Media, for TV, internet and home telephone. We had them once before, when we lived in Cambourne. And I swore, after several issues around crappy customer service, that I’d never give them our money again.

The truth is that the consumer capitalist buzzword so beloved of Thatcherites, ‘choice’, is more often than not a fairly empty concept. What good is choice if everything on offer is shit?

As already alluded to above, ‘Da Boss’ summed this up perfectly in the title of his song 57 Channels (and Nothin’ On). In a similar vein, I came up with a phrase of my own many years ago, about what can happen when confronted with walls of brightly packaged product which is essentially all the same, ‘consumer blackout’.

Miles of aisles.

It’s a form of paralysis that results from too much choice. And it’s especially infuriating where that choice is essentially rendered meaningless by the lack of any real substantive or qualitative difference amongst the options.

For me these days it’s either YouTube or DVDs. Which means either independently produced content from individuals, as opposed to the corporate puke served up by the big boys’n’gals, or the ability to choose selectively from archives unadulterated by the poison of advertising.

Mainstream TV is, for the most part, a whole lot of nothing.

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