Who Needs HDTV
Have you noticed how the electronics industry is pushing necessity of owning a High Definition Television set at us. Anyone who does not own a HDTV by 2010 will indentify themselves as anti – social, hopelessly off message, a misanthrope and curmudgeon and very probably an anarchist, Al Qaeda sympathiser and very probably a smoker and trainee alcoholic.In other words the HDTV refuseniks will be downgraded to second class citizens. The reason for this of course is that in spite of the bletherings of government and big business about saving the planet, the global economic model is built on the assumption that the world’s economy will indefinitely grow at two and a half percent or better. For that to happen we must all be persuaded that we are somehow letting down the human race if we are watching a TV or driving a car that is over five years old. We must throw out perfectly serviceable appliances, furniture, clothes and electronics because they are no longer either fashionable or “state of the art.” If consumerism was a religion (and I often think it is to many people,) the stuff we throw away would count as sacrifices at the altar of Mammon.The HDTV push is a particularly fine example of the shoddy way we are treated by the world’s most powerful industry, Public Relations.The great advantage of High Definition screens, we are told, is that we see things in absolute reality. “Watch a football match and you will be able to see individual blades of grass on the pitch, watch a wildlife programme and you will see every hair on an animal’s hide,” the sales pitch goes.But hold on. Even at the front of the stands in a stadium do you see every blade of grass? If a family pet is sitting six feet away from you do you see every hair of its coat. And more importantly do you want to. A short while ago I heard a radio presenter who is a self confessed technology nerd waxing lyrical about his new forty – six inch High Definition television.
“You can see the layers of makeup on the actors’ faces,” he burbled.
Well wow, wow and thrice wow. Is that what we have come to. Drama is about suspension of disbelief. Do we want to see the actor’s bad skin or do we want to see the character as depicted in the story, rogueishly handsome or flawlessly beautiful. Are Jade Goody’s zits entertainment.
What we get from High Definition screens is hyperreality which may bring computer games addicts to the brink of orgasm but which most people counld easily find disorienting. And forty six inch screens? Fine in American homes perhaps, but the have lots of space to build big houses there. The furthest one can get from the TV in the main room of our largish modern house is twenty five feet. And at that distance the picture on my 12 year old, twenty four inch TV gives me excellent detail and razor sharp images.
High Definition sets will sell of course, the lies about how much better it is will sink in eventually and enough of us will buy to allow the suppliers and the subscription channel broadcasters to make their profit and move on to the next generation of TV sets, rendering our expensive purchases obsolete.
If it was just the equipment manufacturers we had to resist, we might have a chance. The truth is however, the government has weighed in on the side of its owner Rupert Murdoch. The Digital switchover is all about pushing us onto Sky subscription sevices. We are hammered with spurious public information data proclaiming the benefits of digital TV and reminding us all that all the main channels can be had free. If you want to know how true this is just talk to anyone who has Freeview in an area of less than excellent signal strength. They will tell you how in poor weather the screen pixillates, there are losses of picture and sound, alarming clicks while text serrvices look as if a projectile vomiting chamaeleon has wandered acrodss the screen.
Not only that, BBC1 and Channel 4 suffer for being on the edge of the analogue bandwidth spectrum while Channel Five is just a rumour to those without digital.
The Digital switchover is not for our benefit, its sole purpose is to free up capacity so that digital broadcasters can deliver High Definition services. And those services will be aimed at premium subscribers and pay to view services.
There are a number of issues that have not been addressed and any number of difficult questions that our Parliament of Poodles have not asked.
Should we be encouraging manufactureres to lauch new generations of technology when discarded electrical products are responsible for so much pollution and environmental damage?
Ought there not to be a higher VAT rate for environment hostile products such as plasma screen TVs which consume more power that a conventional cathode ray tube TV set.
Why are opposition MPs not demanding a public enquiry into the way we are being railroaded towards digital when the analogue system works well and new cable TV (not owned by the Murdoch family by the way) is more than capable of delivering a range of services including telephone, internet access and Multi Channel subscription TV?
Why have successive governments stood aside as News International and BskyB have manipulated the market to eliminate the competition from cable operators?
No doubt those of us who do not wish to buy a digital TV or a set top box will be forced to eventually, the only choice offered us by a government that proclaims its commitment to choice and market forces will be very undemocratic “comply or give up watching television.” This will result in millions of perfectly serviceable televisions being dumped in landfill sites, thousands of tons of increasingly rare raw materials being mined and used in the manufacture of new television sets that are not needed and millions of poundsworth of cash and credit being redistributed from the pockets of people who have to wonder where next month’s mortgage payment is coming from, or more urgently how they will pay for next week’s food shopping.
No doubt my critics will suggest I am just a tightwad who would rather obstruct progress than part with a few pounds. But I have choices as the affluent always do, being able to choose eating out, a visit to the theatre, a pub or club or a concert or to buy a DVD to fill my evenings. In addition to that, there are always books to read and a thousand ways to fill leisure time. And anyway I already have a Freeview set top box. Doing without television is not a choice for many people, the old, disabled, socially disadvantaged. Again they are being abandoned and marginalised.
The preceding paragraph illustrates the point though. Those who speak out against they was society in constantly manipulated risk being turned on by the compliant majority, those who want nothing in life but to be told what to think and do.
It is time we all started asking “what is really in it for me, how do I benefit?”