Wednesday, 5 July 2017
An institution ended
The two consecutive issues of Radio Times pictured above, which I bought (as usual) while on holiday, are probably going to be the last I will ever buy. I haven't bought a copy for the coming week.
Why not? After all, I've purchased a Radio Times nearly every week since I bought my first home back in 1978. That's almost forty years. It was an ingrained habit, fed by a need to see at a glance what's on TV and radio.
But that need has ebbed away. I haven't made a point of sitting still and deliberately watching an evening's TV for a very long time. Gradually I've become more and more picky about what I will watch. I've seen technical quality improve vastly, but - with of course exceptions - not the information content of programmes. I might still be inclined to watch a programme dealing with art, history and science, but the big snag with TV is that it can't just be a voice explaining things. There has to be a lively visual stream too, and I often feel that the need to keep things moving detracts from the substance of what is being presented, as if impact were more important than facts. I find for instance that the programming on, say, Channel 5 is way too lurid and sensationalist for my taste. Channel 4, once a very respectable channel, has increasingly taken that road.
Another issue is the intrusion of advertisements. To be frank, ads annoy me, and spoil my TV experience enough to make me positively avoid watching any commercial channel. Not that the BBC's offerings are consistently superior. They may (thankfully) be ad-free, but the BBC's strange priorities in spending its income have led to a dumbing-down of its BBC1 and BBC2 output. Only BBC4 seems to regularly screen items worth any commitment of time and attention.
So I've increasingly turned to radio. I've found more and more that the really interesting and enlightening stuff is there, specifically on BBC Radio 4. And although they are commercial, and I have to put up with some ads, I also like LBC for ordinary people's opinions and Classic fm for a pleasant and inspiring selection of classical music, especially enjoying Smooth Classics after 10.00pm.
Caravanning has played its part in driving me away from the TV screen. Most caravanners are couples who plug in their TVs and watch as they do at home. But I'm photo-editing. I can't spare an eye for anything on a TV screen. But I can, and do, listen to the radio while tweaking my shots on the laptop, until past midnight. That has become the norm at home as well.
When the only things I want to know are: (a) what's on BBC4? and (b) what's on BBC Radio 4? buying a comprehensive programme listing magazine like the Radio Times becomes pointless. I can get the details I want just by firing up the BBC iPlayer on my phone. It isn't quite as simple and easy as flicking the pages of Radio Times; but, really, very little extra effort is involved.
These last four weeks away have truly brought it home to me that Radio Times is now mostly irrelevant to my needs. It's full of stuff I would never want to watch or listen to, and articles about broadcasting personalities - presenters, actors - whose names mean nothing or very little. A week ago, having hardly glanced at the 'Dr Who' copy of Radio Times (left, in my shot), I went ahead - almost automatically - with buying the following week's 'Wimbledon tennis' copy (right, in my shot). Afterwards I asked myself why I'd done it. Answer: it was time-hallowed habit.
Well, it's time for a change. No more of it.
You can break even a forty-year habit.
Besides, the price of Radio Times has edged up and up. It's now £2.50. Not a lot as a one-off, but over a year it works out at £130. That's the equivalent of three visits to Waitrose for household shopping. Or ten nights' pitch fees if caravanning. Ten nights...
And there's something else. Radio Times is a paper publication. I'm increasingly uneasy about felling trees so that ephemeral paper publications like this can be produced. It isn't green. It's a reason why I haven't been buying newspapers and magazines in general, quite apart from distrust as to their content, and knowing that everything in them can be viewed for nothing on the Internet.
No more Radio Times then. And thus a longstanding personal institution is ended.
I do realise that it's likelier now that I will miss a very good programme that I might have spotted in Radio Times, but won't notice if looking at the schedules for each channel on the BBC iPlayer. But so be it. At the end of the day, how much does any TV programme matter? Will I really be the loser if I miss one?
I have a super digital radio. My TV is however nine years old and replacement will have to be considered at some point. But would it be worth doing, if I watch so little? Couldn't I manage indefinitely with what I've got? Or use my newish laptop, with its 3K screen, as an occasional television, streaming programmes via the Internet?
How does the capital cost of a big new 4K TV compare to the extra monthly cost of an upgraded Broadband service, so that I can use my laptop as a TV as often as I want to? It all needs a lot of careful thought. But surely replacing one's TV with a 'better' model shouldn't - like buying Radio Times every week - become automatic.
Hmm. I've discovered that there is a Radio Times website, and that gives full listings for TV and Radio. For nothing.
It's got annoying ads, but then the paper version carried some too. It doesn't have the articles that the paper magazine had, but then I hardly ever read those. It does have full programme write-ups, with better information than the magazine had room for. It's not quite as quick to consult, but it's good enough for my purposes. I've put a shortcut to it on Tigerlily's screen.
At least I won't now miss anything that I would have wanted to see.