I want my TV for free, just like it used to be

We all know those people. The kind that proudly don’t own a TV, don’t need one and don’t want one. I know people like that and I sympathize. I agree that TV can be an intrusive presence and a real conversation stopper, not to mention it’s a medium dominated by corporate advertising which I despise.

Still, I never counted myself among those ranks because there is something mind-numbingly pleasing about watching a good show, even a cop show. Yes, this anti-authoritarian, anti-corporate activist likes him some CSI.

We also all know people who feel that owning a TV is needless, because anything that can be watched can be watched online these days. I know these people, in fact I am one of these people. At least publically, I’m a huge advocate for and promoter of the idea that the web will replace all conventional media one day.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy sitting down from time to time and letting some programmer offer up what I’m going to consume. We all enjoy a good sit, don’t we? There’s something pleasing about knowing that I can just flip on the tube and something (at least remotely) interesting will be playing.

Sadly, I don’t have that privilege anymore. You see, I have rabbit ears and for years, those have served up almost all the shows I needed. But now, thanks to a CRTC ruling designed to make more room for cellphone and other signals, all over-the air analog TV signals have been replaced by digital ones.

That doesn’t mean that rabbit ears don’t work anymore, they just don’t work on their own. You need to pay for a converter, which costs up to $100. I don’t see myself doing that anytime soon. It’s almost like buying a new TV and TV just isn’t my top priority right now. I also don’t see myself getting cable or sattelite TV. It’s just not worth it given what I watch and what I can get online.

It’s not like we weren’t warned. In fact I wrote about this very subject as an impending threat on this site over a year ago and the US has been living without analog signals for over two years. But all the warnings in the world are meaningless when you really don’t want to have to go out and buy an additional device just to watch free TV.

Beyond the price, though, the concept just bugs me and not only because I can see the transmitter from my window but can’t access what it is sending out. It’s the fact that something that was free for years now costs money. It’s not progress, it’s profit. Small profit but profit nonetheless.

It also takes away from the possibility of TV being used as a public service. I know that it’s been far from that for years already and was even created as an advertising medium in the first place, but at least it was possible.

Just a week ago, community radio in Vermont proved just how useful it was in getting vital information out when Irene knocked out the Internet. It’s a shame that TV will never get that chance.

It’s also bringing us one step closer to being fully a part of the grid. Yeah, a converter box is anonymous, but how long will it be before we just plain need cable or satellite to watch TV.

In England, they have a TV Tax and inspectors. That sounds kinda Orwellian to me. I wonder how long it will be before we have something like that here.

Now, this may be a little overboard and paranoid, but at least it would make a great plot for a new series. Too bad it’s the kind of series that I wouldn’t ever look for but may enjoy if it shows up on my TV. Guess I’ll be missing that one.

* photo by Cindy Lopez

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  • Interesting article. I find that those who use took advantage of rabbit ears normally had smaller televisions, which are going out of style. With the rise of HD, more and more people are switching to digital and satellite.

    Although I spend most of my time on the internet, there are some shows I like enjoying on TV, in HD, the best way to watch them. I think there are many benefits to having satellite or digital cable, such as giving up-start specialty channels a wider audience.

    You could always hook up your computer to your TV too and enjoy a TV show on a larger screen — albeit, it would be blurry. There are alternatives.

    I don’t think I could ever last without internet these days. But TV is second. It’s not as popular as it used to be, but there’s so much variety on TV these days, it’s quite good.


    I think the fact the internet is so popular as far as finding TV shows to watch really makes this interesting. You can find anything on the internet — way more than satellite or digital cable can offer you. However, for that big screen, HD experience, that’s where TV comes on.


  • nice article Jason and I fear the same will be happening soon over here in the UK. 2012 is when they are aiming for full digital switch over. I do have to say to you that the ‘TV tax’ we pay is for the BBC and means that on all BBC channels there is absolutely no advertising whatsoever. I know it might sound crazy to North Americans because you guys have adverts every 2 mins but over here we pay for our TV station communally as a nation and therefore do not need advertisers. The fact that the BBC produces some excellent television and news is because it is accountable to us, the people , not the owners or advertisers. Let me tell you it was a pure joy to come home to the UK and have no advert breaks at all whilst watching my favourite show. So a TV licence is not exactly an Orwellian principle. I don’t own a tv though as we have all the TV stations available online and as you so rightly point out i certainly won’t be spending a 100 quid on a digi box either !

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