Friday, July 24, 2009

My TV Blackout

I don't remember what the date was when my analog TV still worked, but it was a while ago. I've never had cable and I haven't bothered to use my $40 government coupons for a converter box yet.

As I ask myself whether or not I miss it, I think of Slate's News Junkie Smackdown, an on-going web series in which Michael Kinsley and others debate the effects of a self-imposed newspaper blackout. "I would hate to lose the newspapers," said Seth Stevenson. "But I'm pretty sure I could live a full and happy life without them."

Likewise television for me. If we're talking about the very existence of television -- as distinct or not from cable -- I am confident that I would be fine. The Internet is stepping up, and I've always gotten most of my news from radio and magazines anyway.

But this -- a world without TV -- isn't a realistic scenario. Me not having one that works, is. How do I cope? It's simple:
1. Although I love network TV, summer is the season of reality shows. I am missing nothing.

2. TV's national news, which generally lasts a shameful 22 minutes per evening, is and has long been a joke. The only real value it has is in making us feel like we're sharing a national experience.

3. TV's local news is filled with gimmicky human interest stories. And besides, reading local blogs gives me all of the NYC stories with links to video from local stations anyway.

4. Not automatically turning on the TV when I get home from work means I have to find other ways to unwind.

5. But I can always watch old shows and last season's shows on and

6. What am I really missing? I live in a big building that gets poor reception. My picture quality has always been bad, and there's no guarantee that it will be any better with a digital converter. In fact, from everything I've heard, the digital signal is even more unreliable than the analog one I've had so much trouble with.
I don't know why I haven't switched over. I think part the reason is that the whole thing seems like a ploy to get me to pay for cable TV, and I resent that. With the exception of networks like HBO and Showtime, cable networks still have ads. What am I paying for then? Infrastructure?

My government coupon for a converter box expires on September 16. The only reason I can think of to use it before September is to satisfy my curiosity and prove that the converter box won't give me a watchable picture.



Anonymous Andy said...

Oh, Harry, old friend, I went through this same dilemma myself:

As for me, I let the coupon expire. I haven't really regretted it.

1:31 PM  

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