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.


Steve said...


Dana said...

Agree wholeheartedly, Mound.

If you, like me, prefer the way the Brits do TV try

rww said...

@Dana, is there a page I can get more information on before downloading and installing it

Gyor said...

Most news paper content is no better then the TV content, filled bias and journalist picking and chosing the bits that reinforce they're biases instead of challenging them.

A rare exception to that is feminist Cassie Jays upcoming documentary the red pill, where she has her assumptions challenged and evolves accordingly.

Dana said...

Not that I know about. I first heard about it on the Facebook page of Dan Jones, a young Brit historian who's written on the Plantagenets and The Wars of the Roses ( really great reads BTW). Both have now been done up as 4 part miniseries by Channel 5 and he was telling his non British Isle fans that was the best way for them to watch the series. My OS is too antiquated for it but a friend I recommended it to has told me it works well and has no problems. As have many of the people Dan Jones recommended it to.

That's what I know.

Northern PoV said...

A couple of sources to add to your list: Rabble & Counterpunch. One is Canadian and one is American. I often disagree with content on both of them (including some of Vltchek's curve balls) but they often challenge me to really think outside my usual frames.

As for TV: I stopped watching the news (propaganda vessels that manufacture consent) years ago, then shut down (CBC) radio news too. I like to cross source from the plethora of text sources on the net. (ie like the list you gave). BTW, most subscription sites allow for 5 or 10 reads per month. For "mundane" news I go to non subscription sites and "save" my tokens for the opinion or must reads. I keep three browsers active (Chrome. IE, Firefox) which means I triple the number of tokens/reads I get if needed.

As for entertainment etc. ... Netflix rules. I refuse to ever watch another TV commercial. We 'cut the cord' several years ago. We get 7 really good HD signals free over the air in downtown Vancouver with an homemade ariel. So we can watch basic TV if we want. (My wife loves TV sports but is 'enjoying watching less' w/o TSN etc). If Netflix doesn't have it the library does and has it a great search/reservation system.

It does produce a strange effect with some friends/relatives who get most of their info from TV news and don't barf at the sight of Peter Mansbridge. It seems like they live on a different planet. We no longer share basic assumptions about how the world works.

Toby said...

It is particularly difficult to get out-dated British TV series, even from Netflix, so we tune our little torrent app to Pirate Bay.

We refuse to watch ads. We are paying for satellite TV in order to get Knowledge, PBS, TVO, etc. I figure that since we are paying for the TV we shouldn't have to watch ads at all.

Dana said...

Yah but if we don't consume ever more and more of what use are we?