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Getting rid of the TV

March 2011

Here’s a conundrum for you.  We all know that it’s generally better to be reading a book than watching television; Oldie readers don’t need to be told that.  We also know that the internet has more rubbish (and worse) on it than any commercial television channel controller ever dreamed about.

So why is that I feel pleased at the news of a survey which finds that 60% of middle-aged and older people in Europe have begun to swap at least an hour of TV each day for surfing on the Internet?  And that 30% of them have replaced a whole two hours of television with internet action?

Admittedly, the survey is not exactly a piece of high level peer reviewed research; it’s just something cobbled together by a website called which claims to be the very first Pan European community for the mature generation.  It’s based in Germany, and is already present in a number of European countries, including the UK.

Anyway, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and take their results at face value.  They got responses from 1,750 people which is more than most of the high profile political surveys the newspapers bang on about manage.  You can see it yourself at

The results certainly suggests that television is going to have to raise its game to retain its position as a central point in the lives of middle-aged and older people. 

Frankly, it doesn’t surprise me at all.  I watch very little live television these days, beyond the news, rugby internationals and a very small handful of dramas, and it’s mainly because what they pump out at us seems to be designed either to irritate me or is of no conceivable interested. 

What’s more, I can’t stand commercial breaks any more, and the problem with watching any television with even one other person is that one is that one is denied the opportunity to switch it off when suitably exasperated.

However, I am happy to dive into the gigantic reference book and library that is the internet, and I think it’s because when I do, I am in control. 

What I might lose, of course, is the social aspect of watching a programme with others.  However, I can sit in the kitchen with my laptop, using the internet, whilst chatting to family – and indeed they can all do the same thing, at the same time.  It’s no different, it seems to me, to us each having our own newspaper.

However, I should warn you that the distinction between internet and television is fast vanishing, in any event.  The undeniable progress of the technology is towards the melding the whole lot into one source. 

Your next television will have the ability to connect to the internet (many already do) and will have a small computer inside it, capable of connecting to the BBC iPlayer and its commercial equivalents.  Whether you are watching a broadcast that comes to you through the television aerial or down the internet line will be irrelevant, and once the technology catches up, indistinguishable.  However, you will have the whole internet at your disposal, on demand.

The only barrier to this process will be the non-availability of sufficiently high speed internet connections in most rural areas.

I will welcome it, when it comes.  It will, it seems to me, be the equivalent of the transformation that arose in the 1960’s when records became affordable.  No longer were we ruled by the scheduling tyranny of the radio playlist, forced to listen to whatever David Jacobs picked, but we could put our own records on, again and again, if we wanted to.

So it will be with television, once the internet connections really take hold.  If you want to watch nothing but Dads Army all evening, you will be able to, and if you never want to see another advert you will be able to pay to avoid them.

Sounds like bliss to me. 

If us Oldies are deserting the television in favour of what we can chose on the internet, at a time we want it, as often as we want, it is a lesson to the television companies and other providers of screen based content.  Given a suitable alternative, we simply won’t be putting up with the dross.