Sunday, January 24, 2016
TV Sucks. Why Do We Have to Pay So Much For It?
If I had my way it'd be "give me 232, 240, 241, 270 and 279" or something sounding remarkably like that. I want my television feed cut to about five channels. Just give me The Knowledge Network, PBS, The Weather Network, Velocity (hey, I'm into cars and racing) and HBO.
I don't get news from The Box. The funny thing is, neither do you - not really. You might think you're watching the news and some of it might even look like news but the resemblance is passing at best.
Mark Twain wrote that those who don't read newspapers are uninformed while those that do read newspapers are misinformed. Good thing Mr. Clemens never had to endure the likes of Mansbridge or Murphy.
Television news is like a horse with blinders. All you see is what the driver wants you to see and that lies straight ahead. Nothing happening on the sides gets in. To a horse pulling a carriage through city streets back in the day the world must have seemed a very curious place.
Oh sure, it's easy to say that TV news is crap. People have been doing that since TV news made its way into our livingrooms. In fact, TV news has always been a mix of good and crap. A little crap but mainly good. A bit more crap, a bit less good. But now there's just way too much crap for what good remains. You're not sure about that? Here's how to tell.
Stop watching CBC, CTV, Global and the rest. Don't settle for the daily delivery. Go shopping. Go online. You'll find there's a massive marketplace of suppliers of quality news - real information - just waiting for your visit and most of it is free. There are hundreds upon hundreds of choices. There are even 50 English-language online news sites from the Middle East. When was the last time you read Black's former paper, The Jerusalem Post?
There are some obvious mainstays: The Guardian, The Washington Post, LA Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Deutsche Welle, the Times of India, Asia Times Online, the Straits Times, Bangkok Post, Japan Times, Haaretz. There are plenty of Canadian sites - The Star, Hamilton Spectator, Calgary Herald, Victoria's Times Colonist, The Globe, CBC, CTV, Global and dozens more. Take your pick. Then there are a few excellent online sources such as The Tyee, Vancouver Observer and the National Observer plus other subscription services such as iPolitics.
Looking for quality opinion with a progressive slant? I've got a short list of 22-sites. I'm interested in ecology and the environment and that short list runs to about 35-sites including the major governmental agencies in North America and Europe as well as the UN.
Once or twice a month I make a pass through my think tank links. I usually begin with Chatham House and then Carnegie, Brookings.... about a dozen in all.
Here's something you might not dwell on too often - the rest of the world rarely sees their news the way we depict it. They tend to see what happens in their corner of the world quite differently because it's happening where they live and it impacts them differently than it will ever impact us thousands of miles distant. Our news outlets take their events and, if they do decide it as deserving as the story of the rescued kitten in the drainpipe, they process it through their filters before dishing it up on our TV screens. Is that really what you want to pay for?
But this is awfully time consuming. Not so much. It is at first. It takes some time to sift the wheat from the chaff but eventually you get pecking lists and a routine, a mix of both passive and active news gathering. After a while it's a much streamlined process.
How often do you sit down to the evening news show, listen to their teaser headlines, decide there's an item you really want to see and then find it buried until the end of the show beneath a mountain of news sludge? Eventually they get to it and you find all they really have is just a longer headline that leaves all your questions unanswered?
For months I've been hovering - one phone call away - from 'cutting the cable.' Right now I've got it pared down to the basic package plus three specialty channels I do watch. However it's dawned on me that I don't watch the basic cable package anyway so, for me, it's a 30 dollar a month "cover charge" to be able to get the three channels I do watch and pay for separately.
We're about a month away from a new regime that's supposed to offer consumers more choice and a better deal. We'll see about that. I've decided to at least hang on to give it a try but if it turns out to be just a variant of the current deal then it's probably time to finally cut that cable.