And that’s why I don’t watch broadcast TV any more…

Last December I gave up on broadcast TV.

Family watching TV in the US, 1958. Public domain, via Wikipedia.
Family watching TV in the US, 1958. Public domain, via Wikipedia.

I’d had enough. A dozen channels running synchronised ads promoting products I didn’t want, interspersed with insults to intellect – TV news reduced to infotainment that talked down to eight-year olds, mind-numbing ‘reality TV’ shows, combat cookery contests and trite dramas filled with posturing ‘characters’ moving from one set-piece display to the next. Bah!

When the occasional show turned up that I actually wanted to watch – usually, it seemed, by accident – it was so shredded with ads it was unwatchable anyway.

Personally I don’t watch TV much anyhow – I have so much else to do involving creating marketable material that creates a genuine emotional experience for those who buy it. Sitting around gaping at other people’s efforts to do the same thing, filtered through all the lenses and frameworks of the corporate system, doesn’t get my stuff done.

We’ve never looked back. For my part, I can get Dr Who on Netflix – and sure, it’s not the current season. But I don’t care. I don’t derive bragging rights from being ‘first’ to watch some show or other. It was five or six years after DVD release and nearly a decade after it showed on TV before I got on to Battlestar Galactica (I still haven’t got past the second season, and this is a show I really like).

I suppose New Zealand television is pretty much par for the course worldwide. Broadcast TV? It’s so last year.

Do you watch broadcast TV?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016


34 thoughts on “And that’s why I don’t watch broadcast TV any more…

  1. I seldom have the patience either. I stick to Netflix for the few shows I like. But I haven’t found a satisfactory way to watch baseball without broadcast tv. And I can’t bring myself to give that up, even with all the inane beer commercials.

    1. I’ve only recently discovered Netflix – looks OK and I’ve found a few shows that I rather like, plus caught up with a few old favourites and some other stuff I never got around to watching when it was broadcast. I don’t derive ‘bragging rights’ from being the ‘first’ to see some entertainment or other, so it doesn’t bother me that a lot of the shows are, well, kind of elderly…

  2. Hey, Matthew! Haven’t watched broadcast television for at least four years, maybe longer. Other than Netflix, I like Acorn TV; am trying Amazon Prime (got a great discount for a year). Acorn is mainly British TV/film but has recently added Australian work. And, one of my favorite dramas is the Brokenwood Mysteries set in a fictional New Zealand town. 🙂 Amazon prime has more classic films–30s and 40s–yet it offers the edgier kind of series like Orphan Black. Regardless, I never lack for something to watch, which is what I don’t ever remember saying with broadcast TV. And then there is the cost savings. Enjoyable post, as always, Matthew.

    1. Thanks! I’ve never seen “Brokenwood mysteries”, though it’s up to its second season. I probably should if for not better reason than the Hf-model Holden they use, which is THE classic NZ car from my youth…:-) The problem I’ve always had is our TV dramas, for some reason, have a terrible ‘cringe-worthiness’ about them – stilted dialogue, bad acting and so on. I’ve never quite understood why, because our ‘satirical advertising’ excels. But in any event I’ve paid so little attention to TV in any case that I never really registered it had been made or was showing. When it comes to the style of our comedy adverts, incidentally, the one that set the ball rolling, back in 1975, was for this chocolate bar:

      (needs Flash).

  3. I don’t watch television anymore. Here in the UK it’s 24hr ads with occasional programme breaks. Luckily we have ad-free BBC, but I prefer iPlayer to watch interesting stuff in my own time. (Saw a good documentary the other night about the history of Ordnance Survey maps.)

    My tv programme watching is mainly from DVD hire or finding stuff sneaked onto Youtube.

    1. I had a subscription for a while to a DVD service called “Fatso” – basically, ordering DVD’s online from a colossal catalogue, they’d post them to you with no fixed “return” date, except you didn’t get any more until you’d returned those ones. It was pretty good and the range was still better than can be got online, for the older shows.

  4. I rarely watch TV, but Neflix is the way ahead.
    Not that I care, or that its my problem, there cant be that big a time gap before no one watches as prescribed tv, therefore how are the advertisers going to generate money? Maybe Netflix type platforms will become embedded with ads too…

    1. Hopefully these subscription services will garner their income from those subscriptions and not feel they have to extract more from adverts! Here in NZ, Sky TV has been largely killed by them – it was a subscription service too, but it was riddled with ads for itself…

  5. TV’s glory days are over. I still remember the days that shows were uninterrupted and only a handful of adds were slotted in before and after the news in between shows that finished at bedtime to make way for the test screen. About 30 years ago they installed cable TV in my town. This was a wonderful expansion, because now we could receive not only Dutch and German TV, but also the English channels and some specific documentary and sports ones. This expansion cost us about $70 a year and felt well worth it. Things went downhill fast when commercial TV started buying rights to shows that could only be watched by paying them an in my opinion ridiculous annual amount. Now in Australia, you cannot even watch your favorite footy team’s matches and have to go to a pub to see the grand final!
    They’ve lost me to YouTube where I can find whatever documentary or information I’m in the mood for, with adds that you can stop within seconds so you do not lose the thread of the show and reading blogs, where there is still a high degree of freedom of expression. As far as news goes, my social media informs me enough of what is going on that is important. I also love downloading a whole series (like Dr. Who) and watching them on a rainy Sunday back to back, without interruptions.

    1. There’s no doubt in my mind that the quality and calibre of TV programming has dropped radically – weirdly, particularly since the advent of services to compete with it. It’s as if the ‘answer’ to competition was to go for the lowest possible common denominator – a demographic that might not even exist in reality, maybe… And these days there’s definitely the convenience aspect of being able to watch online stuff entirely at will – in effect, fitting it to your time-frame and not being imprisoned by the demands of TV scheduling.

  6. I haven’t watched TV of any sort since 1980 (except for ice hockey games in the 1980s). Since my daily routines haven’t had a place for sitting and watching stuff, I don’t know if I ever will, even post-retirement. I have to make space for blog reading/writing, after all.

    1. That time thing is at least a part of the reason why I don’t bother with TV – it’s an hour, or two hours, or whatever, that I won’t get back… and such things as blogging, writing and reading are so much more productive, somehow. There’s also the fact that a 40-minute TV show takes an hour, courtesy of those &^$*** advertisements, and that’s 20 minutes lost that I could well put into something productive.

  7. I watch little television. In fact, I don’t even have cable. I’ve no tolerance for the vast majority of the programming that is recycled sitcoms, reality shows that aren’t reality, and worn out formats. There are a few shows I access via the internet and I’ll watch one of them while I eat in the evening. It’s my sixty minutes to turn off my brain. I like to think that the programming in other countries is better than here in the U.S., but you burst that illusion. Thanks. 😀

    1. The US sends shows to NZ which in turn takes inspiration from Australia which takes inspiration from the US which takes inspiration from the UK which takes inspiration from the US… and around and around and around goes the TV intellect death-spiral. There ARE occasional good documentaries – Richard Attenborough’s BBC nature shows are usually great. But they are so few and far between, and the advertisements make them unwatchable anyway, that I just can’t be bothered.

  8. Its the same here in the UK Matthew. Homogenized dross catering for the demands of politically correct tossers. I remember when TVNZ produced good stuff – Sky at Night for one. I take it that no longer happens?

    1. They don’t produce anything worthwhile. And the shows that do get made are lowest common denominator knock offs of overseas stuff. Don’t get me started on the news-as-kiddie entertainment trend. There is no such thing as good journalistic current affairs any more.

        1. Definitely dumbing down. Not sure it’s deliberately… human stupidity appears to be unquenchable! 🙂 Marketers pander to it the way they pander to everything else… (check out Cyril Kornbluth’s ‘Marching Morons’ if you haven’t already – it’s half a century old and prophetic…)

            1. Herald aren’t too bad – though my last feature for them (which they requested) was then not used, so I wasn’t paid. If I asked a plumber to do some work in my house and then said ‘oh, I don’t use that tap so I won’t pay you’, I’d be laughed at, but the rules appear to be different for newspapers…

  9. I move around a lot. Several times I rented houses without a TV and the problem was solved. I did not suffer in its absence. Now I have a TV set and mostly watch CNN. They report not on everything and chase ratings (like the lost airplane news). But that’s about it as far as watching something on TV.

    1. I have a TV set but it’s not switched on more than once or twice a week, and then because I have a computer plugged into it. I actually DID go out of my way to watch Robocop (2014) the other night, because it was on TV and because I’d missed it on cinema release – but it was so shredded with ads that it was barely watchable.

  10. Totally agree with you! Aussie TV is full of ads for things I don’t want. Programmes are dreadful. Tend to write more than watch TV and if I do, it’s a DVD of something I WANT to see – and without ads. LOL

    1. DVD’s have all kinds of advantages! I used to have a subscription mail-order DVD service that was wonderful, and the selection was way better than anything online. The disks also didn’t have the ‘not enough bandwidth across the country tonight’ latency lag…

  11. I pretty much quit watching television much when I went to university, where I didn’t have one. Upon getting out, I didn’t ever pick the habit back up and the vast majority of things on television aren’t worth watching. So I sort of took myself out of the “viewing audience” almost 30 years ago now.

    After getting married this became even more the case. There’s not a single current television show of any type that I actually watch, although I am very slowly making my way through Foyles War on Netflix and I’ll occasionally watch a movie that I’m interested in on one of the movie channels.

    Television is truly a vast wasteland.

  12. It occurs to me that I’ll be stunned if anyone comes in and defends television here. An audience that comes in to read this wide selection of material probably is too intellectual and contains too many polymaths to watch much modern television.

    If you haven’t watched television in a long time, it’s an interesting, albeit barely tolerable, exercise to flip through the channels sometime. There are some thing that look interesting and may be worth watching, but by and large the offerings are amazingly stupid. It makes a person wonder if the target audience is a locker room somewhere.

    1. I think the target audience is exactly as you describe – and I am pretty sure nobody who watches TV actually matches the description, but it gets fed to them anyway…

      1. In recent years there’s been expressions of concern, in the US market, about the decline in viewership of conventional television, which is usually blamed on the rise of things like Netflix (or the internet in general). But what might be going on is a lot of self selection. Audiences that are discerning and are inclined to a) sophomoric humor; and/or b) icky juvenile situations, just go elsewhere. Or out.

        Years ago I heard an NPR radio presentation that looked at television comedy writing and it claimed that a very high percentage of network television comedy show writers had the same US Ivy League background. Indeed, a large percentage had come out of a single school, it claimed, and had written for that school’s collegiate satire rag. I can’t vouch for that, of course, but it claimed this branded them with the same sense of humor, which trended towards juvenile dirty, but that almost all of the writers had a very poor grasp on the American audience. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is interesting.

        I do know, fwiw, that in 1987 there was a US comedy series called Frank’s Place about a college professor who inherits a bar from his long estranged father in New Orleans. The black protagonist is confronted in it with a selection of New Orleans personalities on a weekly basis. It was cancelled after a single season as a network personality simply didn’t get it. The humor was subtle, and it didn’t involve a lot of twenty somethings who lacked clothing, which I think credits the theory above.

  13. Have Freeview mainly to watch the news and the political programmes buried on 3 and One on weekend mornings. I can tolerate the odd advertisement – that’s been my life as a former 2-newspaper reader-a-day – and your web blog!

    1. I’ve never gone for the paid upgrade to get rid of the adverts WordPress occasionally serve on this blog (I don’t see them – they don’t get served to the admin…) – I’d prefer to focus any online spending on my main web-page at – which about to get an all-new, all-singing, all-dancing makeover.

  14. As a random comment, has anyone ever noticed that there is absolutely one activity that characters in television portrayals or film absolutely never do?

    Never ever.

    They never watch television. . . .

    They go to movies. . . they go to concerts. . . they go to dinner. . . but. . .. they don’t watch television.

    Hmmm. . . . .

    1. Interesting isn’t it. The Bundy’s couch in ‘Married with Children’ was always pictured as facing their TV, but it was never shown – and I don’t think they ever had any of the characters merely watching it either. I have a sudden vision of a ‘recursive TV watcher’ in which somebody’s shown on TV watching people watching TV on a TV… of course that’ll never happen either.

  15. We save 20 minutes of commercial time in an hour program when we record it and fast forward through those ads. I don’t mind creative commercials, but most of them are tiring. When you pay actors a million dollars per episode, I guess commercials will remain a fact of life.

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