Why TV is better than ever

Posted by Ian
 
There’s never been one particular ‘golden age’ of television. Rather, the golden age began when TV was invented, and continues to this day.
 
TV isn’t worse than it used to be, just different. There only seems to be more bad stuff around because there are more channels around. The ratio of quality:dross programmmes on telly is more or less the same as it’s always been. When there were only three channels to choose from it might have been easier to ignore the poor telly simply because telly wasn’t such a ubiquitous presence in our lives. Nowadays we might have to work harder to avoid it, but it doesn’t follow there are less decent alternatives.
 
Television has expanded to fill the space made available to it, and I’m sure nobody but nobody would wish for the days when there weren’t any programmes before lunchtime and TV closed down before midnight.
 
The sheer amount of television available to the viewer now is breathtaking and to be thoroughly applauded. TV informs, educates and entertains us about the world in ways unimaginable even ten years ago. We have information at our fingertips – or rather, at the click of a button on a hoofer doofer – the like of which is unparalleled in history.
 
Rolling news services supply us with the headlines instantly rather than at strict times squeezed awkwardly into the schedule. An entire channel is devoted to showing us what happens inside Parliament. It seems absurd that this wasn’t the case less than a decade ago. More of us have access to more mainstream and alternative films than ever before. More of us have access to challenging documentaries and pioneering current affairs than ever before. More children’s television, with production values easily surpassing anything witnessed in my youth, is available to younger viewers than ever before. More high quality UK drama populates the schedules than ever before. More glossy light entertainment is wheeled out across the networks than for a generation. And proportionately more sport is available to the nation, for free, than in the history of television itself.
 
You can find all of the above on the main terrestrial and digital channels. If you have Freeview, for instance, you’re rarely a few minutes from a bit of decent television. There’s something fantastic on BBC4 every night. There’s at least one must-see landmark film on Film4 every day. There’s something entertaining on More4 every night. Switch to BBC News 24 for the best rolling news service around. Even if you don’t have digital, though, BBC1 and BBC2 are the finest mainstream channels in the business, treating us to well-made, diverse and thoughtful programmes every day and night of the week.
 
Bad television inevitably catches our attention more than good. This is simply by definition. Human instinct is to notice a car crash rather than a car driving safely along a road. Newspapers seize on the most extreme telly currently around because they wouldn’t sell copies if they praised the redoubtable and the worthy. Bad television challenges the viewer to, in a phrase familiar to everyone of a certain age, find something less boring instead.
 
The TV of our formative years – in my case, the late 1970s and 1980s – did what it could do and was supposed to do extremely well, while the TV of today does what it can and is expected to do extremely well also.
 
You don’t have a passive relationship with your TV set. You take from it what you want, and make of it what you want. It’s up to you whether you want to enjoy a programme or not, and not the fault of the programme itself. To slag off contemporary TV just because it’s contemporary says more about the person doing the criticising than the object of their scorn. TV will always be great, because it’s TV, and it’s a wonderful, magical creation.
 
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19 Responses to Why TV is better than ever

  1. Homepage says:

    I think on the whole your argument is informed, although it leaves one feeling confused.

  2. Unknown says:

    TV is good I agree, but I prefer video games really.

  3. Steve says:

    The most important thing in life, and what makes us what we are, is the power of choice. If people want to be entertained and watch Strickly Come Ice Dancing, then that\’s their choice. If someone wants to expand their mind and watch Planet Earth, then they should also have that choice. I whole-heartedly agree with your point; watch what you want to, don\’t watch what you don\’t want to. Don\’t blame TV for giving you that most beautiful of things: the right to choose

  4. Unknown says:

    Who wrote this heavily biased commentary on Television in 2007? The mere fact of a proliferation of channels and 24 hours of transmission time, does not, by itself, justify Trash TV of the type from which we have to suffer every day ie Channel 4s Big Brother, Daily auctions on BBC 1 & 2 and endless mind numbing Makeovers both personal and domestic, presented with asinine chirpings by barely employable "experts". A great deal of these offerings come courtesy of the BBC and funded from  the TV Licence Fee.  

  5. Unknown says:

    You can always tell the people who slag off television but never watch it, because they just rehash the arguments everybody else made five years ago. There aren\’t "endless mind numbing makeovers" on television any more, and those that remain exist because property and fashion are legitimate subjects for TV shows. Nobody goes into a newsagent or bookshop and gets cross about the number of titles devoted to travel or antiques or interiors. I don\’t get why TV is any different, especially when, as Ian points out, there is quite clearly a decent diet of drama, documentaries, films and news. And I don\’t get why anyone of remote intelligence "has" to "suffer" Big Brother. Have you lost your remote control or something?

  6. jessica says:

    i think that too many people waste there time watching rubbish on the tv, it is true that you have the choice to watch it or not, but many people find turning the tv off quite a struggle before bedtime.  i havent watched tv for many months and have found many other ways to entertain myself, there are books to be read and places to go.  There are no excuses for people to complain about what is on the tv, if you dont like it turn it off and do something else!

  7. Unknown says:

    TV is very diverse today it caters very well for everybody, l don\’t watch much TV, my wife follows soaps which l find very unreal to life, why is it nobody in Corrie never mentions Manchester United or
    talk about sport, why does Kevin shows no interest in Cars, thats all bloke never stop talking about in pubs. Still if it gives folk a lot of enjoyment that good, and l am a bit of hypocrit as well as l find The Bill true to life, making it a bit boring to watch, but found on old cop shows like Hawaii Five-0 very exciting with excellent plots that are not real to life. TV caters best for under 25s & Pensionors the two groups that normally get the TV licence for free, loads of kids chanels, bucket loads of music chanels whose history gos back no more than 1985, loads of history chanels for the pensionors with bucket loads of World War 2 programmes and history. I am very much interested into classic cars, music 1950\’s to 1985 Beatles, Rolling Stones, Tamla Motown, Stax & 50s Rock\’n\’ Roll, Slade, Queen which has the Freeview chanels has next to nothing on (If the BBC donea classic cars show all we would get is Ferraris and Aston Martins not anything that 99.99% of classic car drivers own), It\’s a bit better on Sky or Cable,l dont watch much TV so it does not bother me. I also like Motorsport & Sport which is very well catered for. I come from the license paying 25-65 age group. Still my wife tells me Roy in Corrie as just bought a Moggie Morris Minor so may be l am talking rubbish, and of course l watch Heartbeat the 60\’s when blokes were long haired hippies, Beatles Mops, Mick Jagger type Mods, not to many ever lived in Goathland judging by the programme, Girls are accurate though to much crime for such a small village. Still l must turning in to a middle aged grumpy old man. TV is just great it\’s got something for everyone young and old.       

  8. luke says:

    The initial poster has a very flowery view on one of the wonders of modern life. I agree TV is great and has granted us easy access to more knowledge. But I dont think that simply saying switch over if you dont like it is an acceptable retort to those who have issue with the poor standards of tv.
    Firstly: To compare the ratios of good:bad tv now to what is was 30 years ago and say they are the same is a crazy concept. 75% of almost everything that has ever been on, is on constant repeat so to create a ratio would be really messed up 😉 !
     
    If you start to really think about the whole TV GOOD/TV BAD issue  you have to decide what makes it good/bad. Simplistically you could say it may come down to personal preference, however that is a bit of a facile interpretation of the issue. You have to look a bit deeper; acknowledge who is watching; kids/ adults, uneducated people/educated people, captive audiences such as prisons or malls. Then look at the suitability of the programs being broadcasted for those people and what the outcome of the show will be in terms of how it affects the viewer.
    I am sure people can turn over if they do not like a program, but what’s to say that an inappropriate show will be watched by an impressionable person who will not/can not turn over? e.g. think about the ongoing debate surrounding violent films being shown to kids: do violent shows lead to violent kids?
    Maybe programming that does nothing but satisfies the lowest requirement of mental stimulation to remain watchable will lead to a generation of low aspiration easily pleased potatoes? If you eat excess junk food you get physically unfit, if you don’t stimulate your mind then you don’t develop your thinking capabilities, although recalling the Jade BB debacle I guess it stimulates something. My personal bugbear is music videos, freely available all day and contains more sex/swearing (bleeped out…whatever, there’s only so many words that rhyme with duck, twitch and bigger) than ever before and rap especially promote excessive $ and spending of $ as being the prime goal in life and the only way to be happy. This egocentric, narcissistic, sexist, capitalist highly appealing trash is gobbled up by young kids all day everyday.
     
    Sometimes the show may be to promote a political opinion, look at the main news channels and see if you can guess which political parties they support. Bias and inaccurate information is blatant in many types of programme; just imagine if you were educated by American movies (just like millions of people are)!  I touched on the topic of sex earlier, how many shows portray woman as objects or less than men. How many shows push the idea that you have to comply to a set body type/look to be a certain kind of person? On top of the intellectual connotations of bad TV there are the social problems it causes, cue images of anorexic children trying to emulate their Pop Idols.
     
    This inexorably leads to the issue of ‘why should tv have responsibilities to the general public’, why should tv be obliged to provide anything other than tv?
     
    To further this discussion you have to look at the motives behind broadcasting. In most cases the person in control of the TV programming is doing it for MONEY! To make money people will do anything and this is clearly evident on TV. Most Broadcasters are controlled by the dollar; they are exactly the same as a company that makes cheese or oil. If they were not regulated by independent bodies then we would be in an even worse situation. Lobby groups operate for tv companies in the same way they do for tobacco companies. Businesses serve the lowest common denominator in terms of satisfaction and people will continue to accept this as long as there is a lack of easily accessible choice. The TV industry knows what catches the publics’ eye: that is bright shiny colours and links to our base desires. So basically they treat us like children (compare teletubbies and mtv, bright vibrant colours, simple concepts, repetition, although teletubbies camera seem to have learnt to hold a camera still). When you grow up should you not be given the option to have more complex shows available to you?
     
    The bottom line is that Human Beings (with all there attached foibles, money grabbing tendencies, prejudices and biases) are putting shows onto tv screens for other Human Beings.
    When you watch something you form an opinion on it and it may change your opinion on other issues in your life, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I think that TV, more than any other media, is responsible for changing opinions and mind sets in the wider population through its ability to easily disseminate information. Some people are more impressionable than others and may take concepts presented to them on TV/Silver screen further than others, to disastrous consequences. It is for this reason that the quality should be more thoroughly audited. Why can’t the majority of programmes be well made, stimulating shows and the minority the trashy stuff? I would much rather channel hop because I was torn between amazing shows than because I couldn’t be bothered to commit to one naff one.
    This is a bit of a disjointed rant (im at work) but hopefully it will make you demand a bit more of your goggle box.

  9. luke says:

    A bit of a flowery view on one of the wonders of modern life. I agree TV is great and has granted us easy access to more knowledge. But I dont think that simply saying switch over if you dont like it is an acceptable retort to those who have issue with the poor standards of tv.
    Firstly: To compare the ratios of good:bad tv now to what is was 30 years ago and say they are the same is a crazy concept. 75% of almost everything that has ever been on, is on constant repeat so to create a ratio would be really messed up 😉 !
     
    If you start to really think about the whole TV GOOD/TV BAD issue  you have to decide what makes it good/bad. Simplistically you could say it may come down to personal preference, however that is a bit of a facile interpretation of the issue. You have to look a bit deeper; acknowledge who is watching; kids/ adults, uneducated people/educated people, captive audiences such as prisons or malls. Then look at the suitability of the programs being broadcasted for those people and what the outcome of the show will be in terms of how it affects the viewer.
    I am sure people can turn over if they do not like a program, but what’s to say that an inappropriate show will be watched by an impressionable person who will not/can not turn over? e.g. think about the ongoing debate surrounding violent films being shown to kids: do violent shows lead to violent kids?
    Maybe programming that does nothing but satisfies the lowest requirement of mental stimulation to remain watchable will lead to a generation of low aspiration easily pleased potatoes? If you eat excess junk food you get physically unfit, if you don’t stimulate your mind then you don’t develop your thinking capabilities, although recalling the Jade BB debacle I guess it stimulates something. My personal bugbear is music videos, freely available all day and contains more sex/swearing (bleeped out…whatever, there’s only so many words that rhyme with duck, twitch and bigger) than ever before and rap especially promote excessive $ and spending of $ as being the prime goal in life and the only way to be happy. This egocentric, narcissistic, sexist, capitalist highly appealing trash is gobbled up by young kids all day everyday.
     
    Sometimes the show may be to promote a political opinion, look at the main news channels and see if you can guess which political parties they support. Bias and inaccurate information is blatant in many types of programme; just imagine if you were educated by American movies (just like millions of people are)!  I touched on the topic of sex earlier, how many shows portray woman as objects or less than men. How many shows push the idea that you have to comply to a set body type/look to be a certain kind of person? On top of the intellectual connotations of bad TV there are the social problems it causes, cue images of anorexic children trying to emulate their Pop Idols.
     
    This inexorably leads to the issue of ‘why should tv have responsibilities to the general public’, why should tv be obliged to provide anything other than tv?
     
    To further this discussion you have to look at the motives behind broadcasting. In most cases the person in control of the TV programming is doing it for MONEY! To make money people will do anything and this is clearly evident on TV. Most Broadcasters are controlled by the dollar; they are exactly the same as a company that makes cheese or oil. If they were not regulated by independent bodies then we would be in an even worse situation. Lobby groups operate for tv companies in the same way they do for tobacco companies. Businesses serve the lowest common denominator in terms of satisfaction and people will continue to accept this as long as there is a lack of easily accessible choice. The TV industry knows what catches the publics’ eye: that is bright shiny colours and links to our base desires. So basically they treat us like children (compare teletubbies and mtv, bright vibrant colours, simple concepts, repetition, although teletubbies camera seem to have learnt to hold a camera still). When you grow up should you not be given the option to have more complex shows available to you?
     
    The bottom line is that Human Beings (with all there attached foibles, money grabbing tendencies, prejudices and biases) are putting shows onto tv screens for other Human Beings.
    When you watch something you form an opinion on it and it may change your opinion on other issues in your life, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I think that TV, more than any other media, is responsible for changing opinions and mind sets in the wider population through its ability to easily disseminate information. Some people are more impressionable than others and may take concepts presented to them on TV/Silver screen further than others, to disastrous consequences. It is for this reason that the quality should be more thoroughly audited. Why can’t the majority of programmes be well made, stimulating shows and the minority the trashy stuff? I would much rather channel hop because I was torn between amazing shows than because I couldn’t be bothered to commit to one naff one.
    This is a bit of a disjointed rant (im at work) but hopefully it will make you demand a bit more of your goggle box.

  10. thomas says:

    With the newer service call digital that has the added benefit of being unwatchable at times I think we should stick to the analog, as you can watch this without the voice being behind and the picture breaking up and unwatchable.

  11. Unknown says:

    The miracle of TV is that there is so much of it – hundreds of channels 24 hours a day makes it unbelievable that someone might not be able to find anything worth watching.  Speaking only for myself, I am content with the amount I pay for my (compulsory) television licence  because of the sheer quality of material available from the BBC across several channels.  The contrast with other TV providers is the obvious one that they have to carry intrusive advertising to pay for their service.  Most "hour-long" programs made for commercial channels (they wouldn\’t be there long if they were UNcommercial) last only 50 minutes, and if you watch those channels whose material is entirely imported you only get to see about 10 minutes of real program before being interrupted by advertising – often exactly the same advertising three times in half an hour – aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!  Zapping through dozens of channels on Satellite TV at the wrong moment can mean that you see nothing but advertising for a  frustrating amount of time.  One of your previous correspondents commented that the TV Channel proprietors are driven by the desire to make money, but there\’s owt for nowt, we understand that.  The result in my household is that we choose what to watch from the BBC listings before even looking to see what may be on offer elsewhere. 

  12. Geoff. says:

      Despair! Is the price of age.  The "Latest" Films are simply poorer versions of past classics with "Special Effects" desperately trying to cover for poor script and acting.  Monsterous errors and wild improbabilities are covered by "It\’s only a film". They are forcibly ingested, digested and regurgitated, several times over long before they hit the screen. Programmes labelled "THE NEWS" repeatededly include the advertising for them; desporting the players, plot and price.  By the time you settle down to watch them, you are simply putting all the (previewed) pieces of a jigsaw together without the pleasure of the achievement factor.
     "It\’s only a film" is the most condeming statement of the way we expect and accept substandard goods and service today.
     
     "Political Correctness" That curse on the very culture that produced it. What is equal, in one race being able to describe/call it\’s members by names which would be criminal for others to use? Example: It\’s legal for a Pakistani to use "Paki" but not for any other race. It\’s legal for any negro to use use the word Nigg er but is illegal for anyone of another colour.   The British culture always used diminuatives and abbrieviations in it\’s speach. "Geoff" for Geoffrey. "John" for Johnathan. "Chippie" for fish and chip shop.  A "Chinkie" is a meal of Oriental flavours, not a person. A "Curry" is a meal of Asian flavours.  Thus the difference in the  statements;  "I went for a Curry last night".  "I went for an Indian last night".  Both can mean the same but the first leaves no doubt as to the intention of your actions.  
     Is it legal for a Paki stani to call a Scotsman "Jock"?  Strangely, the court is stil out on that one.
     
    "Positive Discrimination". Means giving special advantage to some, over all the others.
     It is generally used indiscriminately for fear of being accused of discrimination.   
     
    I could go on and on but what\’s the use? I\’d just be called an OLD moaner. 

  13. Unknown says:

    "TV isn\’t worse than it used to be, just different.".  What deluded media-approbation-seeking-suckup writes this relatavistic claptrap.  Okay TV was never golden but it wasn\’t endless property makeovers, personal makeovers and reality shows.  "Big Brother" isn\’t "different" it\’s unspeakable drivel, and a TV era which has it is worse-off than an era which doesn\’t. We\’ll continue being insulted on a grand scale by the media-moguls until we stop approving of everything they do, stop seeing things from their point of view and start standing by the clear truth that contemporary TV is c**p!

  14. Unknown says:

    It isn\’t television that\’s changed it\’s the Cost of watching it, and the continuing cost of watching it.
    Back in the 60\’s you would pay around £15.00 for a T.V. Licence. To watch the same programmes
    today would cost you over £100.00.
    Why must we continue to re-pay again and again for a show already previously paid for.
    It is the same with performing rights, Most film orchestras are paid one set fee by the film studios
    ie, John Barry for the Dr.No /007 theme and that\’s it. No matter how many times it\’s played
    he has been paid for his work and that\’s an end to the deal. T. V. and performing rights should be the same.THE LICENCE FEE WOULD DROP LIKE A PAIR OF LEAD KNICKERS.
    As a viewer I don\’t get a rebate everytime a black and white {monochrome} film is shown I
    pay the same as I do for a colour film. T.V. today isn\’t so much what the viewer wants to watch but
    more what the TV station wants you to watch. Take the so called NEWS on all channels as a viewer you only get the part of the story they want to tell you.
    If a coloured person rapes a woman it comes across as a MAN RAPES A WOMAN, if a muslum has
    a handgun and is arrested it comes across as  MAN ARRESTED WITH GUN. If a white european commits a crime it is blasted across all media, his name his colour , maybe his religeion,
    do we not pay for the WHOLE Story ? People beleave what they see on TV however it is cut and doctored with, how many times have sad people sent flowers when a soap star dies in the series.?
    T.V. is a POWERFUL media tool and has been sucessfully manipulated by all concerned never more so
    than by the government run and backed channels from the BBC.
    In conclusion I say watch Tv but be mindful of what you are seeing and look for the whole picture.
     

  15. William says:

    Bring back the Potters Wheel!

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