Doing without live telly – and loving it – Introduction


Having successfully moved to a new location, from Winchester to Cambridge, UK, our household (me, boyfriend, cat) made the decision to scrap any of the live TV channels and use Virgin Media Broadband only. This fixed our Sky+ addiction at once, and the theory was that the media we consumed would consist of things we CHOSE to view, rather than letting the burping digital tide wash over us, smothering our willpower with endless flashy adverts, music videos of girls dancing in their knickers, and lots of comedy we’d seen before ten years ago, or didn’t really care about. Of course we could have switched Sky off at any time. Yep, works in theory. But there’s no end to it, even though, after about two years, we’d caught up on all the repeats of things we’d missed (I was delighted to rediscover Knightmare, the childrens’ sword & sorcery gameshow from the 1980s and early ‘90s, being broadcast on Challenge!) and a lot more guilty pleasures of this ilk soon followed. (Yes, I used the word ‘ilk’, it’s fab). It was fun while it lasted, and very, very bad for the brain.

This isn’t going to be a smug rant about how we gave up watching telly altogether, because frankly we haven’t! But, as even Channel 4 discovered, there’s only so long you can repeat something (i.e. Friends) without it becoming a standing joke. There were only so many times even I could watch Sex and the City episodes on Comedy Central without becoming seriously blasé – and yet unable to look away! On Sky, having access to newish movies was a great thing to have, but were they worth the money? They would appear only long after the hype and even the DVD had been released, although this helped to take the film on its merits.

So I’m going to take a look at the alternative entertainment options on offer instead, as without the steady feed of live TV, it soon became clear that the more discerning we were, the more we got out of taking personal responsibility and wilfully choosing what appeared in front of us, rather than becoming hypnotised by flicking channels on the Sky screen. There’s something very fulfilling about the media we consume becoming finite, and everything we do watch holds greater value this way. (It might even improve my attention-whatsit.)

On another note, even before we did this, we knew we barely watched the BBC and paid separately for Sky+, and yet the TV Licence continues to maintain its grip on the United Kingdom to a ridiculous extent. Another juicy blog argument, yet again, which is getting more ridiculous as the months and years roll by. It’s easy to deflect into a rant about this, and I’d like to debate that another time as well.
For now, I want to examine the alternatives to live tv (and the BBC) already out there – and yes, one or two of these come from the BBC, but this, I hasten to add, is mainly because they already have a grip on the market and they are certainly not the first choice when we look for something to watch.

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