TV Channel Overload

A few weeks ago, I made the rare decision to cast my eyes over a TV listings magazine …

Every time I access the programme guide on my television, there appear to be additional channels, most of which I have never heard of. The same applies to listing magazines that strive to list as many channels as possible in the limited space at their disposal. This usually means that the font size is sometimes barely legible and often only a certain time frame of programmes is listed. Presumably, this is an editorial decision based on an assumption of when their readers are likely to tune into the channels. When I was growing up, there were just three terrestrial channels broadcasting in the United Kingdom. How times change!

One cannot argue that the advent of digital television has improved broadcasting quality considerably. Besides the usual standard definition transmissions, many channels are also available in high definition depending upon location and the means by which one receives the broadcasts. Additionally, especially in the UK, the mainstream broadcasters all provide catch-up services. When these first started, they were simply a means of watching programmes that had been missed and within a specified time frame. However, nowadays, most offer the facility of watching boxed sets of programmes from the broadcasters’ archives and, occasionally, watching a programme before it appears in the schedules. On top of this, countless channels in the UK are also available on time shift, usually one hour behind the original transmission, accessible via smart tv sets or online. With the exception of the BBC, who have actually reduced the number of channels they offer due to financial constraints, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 offer numerous off-shoot channels. Whilst some of these have a ‘theme’, a target audience or a specific genre (eg 5USA) others are little more than a mishmash of programmes with many old series broadcast at random and not in chronological order.

By definition, there are very few or new programmes on these secondary channels and they are a platform for repeats but therein lies the main problem. I’m sure I’m not alone in being angry when mainstream channels show repeats up to a year after first transmission so sometimes it is nice to have the opportunity to catch up with old favourites a few years down the line by watching these off-shoot channels. Sadly, the television controllers appear to have no thought or respect for their viewers as programmes are often grouped together as well as some being shown up to three times each day. The end result is programmes being shown out of order and the same series being shown on a loop over several years. It all seems very short-sighted as there are literally hundreds of excellent drama series from yesteryear that would make excellent viewing rather than the same few series being shown ad infinitum.

Collage

Other lesser known channels sometimes offer a day filled with episodes of the same programme, ideal if one is an addict and has nothing better to do with one’s time. Another annoying occurrence is when one finds different channels showing episodes of the same series. The CSI and NCIS franchises are a prime example, appearing on no fewer than seven different channels on the same day. One might expect channels with the word ‘movie’ in their title to show films, but strangely, this is not always the case. I suspect it is a question of desperation as channels try to find programmes to fill their schedules. So many broadcast virtually around the clock, undoubtedly making it difficult finding suitable material at times, bearing in mind what the channel is licensed to show. The scheduling of programmes is often illogical and confusing with no indication of episode or series number so it is impossible to know whether or not one has seen the programme previously.

The listings magazine at my disposal lists 61 English-speaking channels (excluding +1 services) available to me if I were to subscribe to a broadcast provider. In addition, there are fifteen sports channels plus many more which aren’t listed because of limited space such as children”s, so-called music and shopping channels. Firstly, there is enough dross on the free-to-air channels without me considering parting with money to access many of the lesser-known channels. Secondly, who on earth watches all these programmes, as there are insufficient hours in a day to achieve most things? So far, I’ve concentrated on conventional tv broadcasting, but in recent years, the likes of Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime have burst on to the scene, all trying to persuade people to subscribe monthly. Whilst these providers do offer some unique programming, the majority comprises old material, much of which emanates from UK and US mainstream broadcasters. If these new services are factored in, then so-called viewing choice goes through the roof. I use the word ‘choice’ somewhat guardedly as in reality, there is not an awful lot of variety as the listings so ably illustrate.

I also have access to Spanish digital terrestrial tv, of which the least said, the better! The number of channels available in this part of the country appears somewhat limited and is less than half those provided in the UK. Furthermore, so far as terrestrial tv is concerned, they don’t provide time-shift channels but I am unable to comment on satellite tv here in Spain. Most of the programming is dire and even makes some of the schedules on UK digital channels look appealing and that really is saying something.

The advent of digital tv has been a mixed blessing in my opinion. Notwithstanding the much better picture quality and cross device accessibility, the irony is that programming standards have plummeted as a result. This is inevitable with so many channels at the disposal of viewers. To me, it would make sound financial sense to reduce the number of channels, thereby eradicating so much programme duplication and paying far more attention to the broadcast schedules by focusing on the viewer and providing a logical transmission stream. As things stand, I perceive that television as we know it has a limited lifespan as viewing habits continue to change. Broadcast executives need to regenerate the medium before it is too late and viewers switch off in their droves. Even now, with considerable choice at my disposal, I struggle almost daily to find things of interest that I actually want to watch and will withhold my interest.

Advertisements

Living the Culture

All too often, the phrase ‘living the culture’ is spoken by immigrants residing in a foreign country, but what exactly does it mean?

Let’s start by examining the definition of the word ‘culture’. The Oxford dictionary defines the word as relating to the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a society and also relating to the arts and intellectual achievements. If the meaning is taken literally, then one becomes totally immersed into a new society, thereby adopting both good and bad behavioural patterns.

As a settler into a foreign country, albeit still within Europe, I see many behavioural differences from those to which I have become accustomed in a period covering well over five decades. Some customs are to be applauded, notably the ‘warm’ greeting one frequently encounters when meeting people, but there are many behaviours that I detest and would never adopt. Driving standards are a classic example. Here in Spain, many drivers show little regard for white line markings on the roads, drive with one arm projecting through the window, talk on their mobile phones, double park at random and on road junctions, and frequently tailgate the vehicle in front.

I am not saying that immigrants should make no effort to integrate into the local culture but simply illustrating that this should be rather selective. I have already witnessed British drivers adopting the inconsiderate practice of double parking, an action that would rarely be done in the United Kingdom. It’s often easy to identify British drivers as many who have moved to Spain have matriculated their UK car, which for  those who don’t know, has the steering wheel on the right! Indeed, it is often these people who claim to be living the culture, yet they steadfastly refuse to let go of their UK vehicle. Whilst the costs of matriculation aren’t cheap as it involves new headlamp units, registration documents and a compulsory vehicle road worthiness test irrespective of the age of the vehicle being imported, driving a RHD vehicle on the right side of a road can be hazardous. This is particularly so if trying to overtake, and whilst that isn’t a problem on motorways, many standard roads are very twisty and narrow in places.

An important aspect of integration is trying to learn the language, or at least to gain sufficient knowledge for ease of communication. Whilst I have a basic grasp of Spanish, my knowledge is somewhat rusty and I will soon be attending lessons to improve my fluency. Sadly, there are many who make little or no effort to learn the language and this is not helped by the number of British-owned businesses and native traders who speak a smittering of English. Still, with some 80% of Britons bring unable to speak their own language correctly, there seems little chance of them embracing a foreign tongue! Then there are the British food shops selling familiar products at highly escalated prices. It’s amazing how many people use them on a regular basis rather than patronising Spanish supermarkets which stock most things one needs on a daily basis. The British stores do have their uses for any special foodstuffs or infrequent treats. For example, mince pies are a seasonal tradition in the UK but not generally available in Spain, likewise certain salad dressings and biscuits. However, why people will pay €4 for a packet of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in a British shop completely baffles me when the same size pack is available in a Spanish supermarket for €2!

Some people dramatically change their drinking habits when in a new country. Spain is a vast wine producer, but to be honest, many of their wines are not to my taste. That is not to say that they aren’t good, although bars do have a tendency to serve up the cheaper quality stuff. It’s hardly surprising when you can buy bottles of wine in the supermarkets for under €2 but I’d suggest that, for a quality wine, one needs to be paying upwards of €5. Cava, however, is a different story with many of the cheaper brands offering a very acceptable drink. This resembles champagne as it is made in the método tradicional. So far as food is concerned, I’m a firm believer in eating what you like rather than being forced to embrace dishes that aren’t to your taste. Many local recipes involve copious amounts of seafood, of which I’m not a fan, so my taste in fish is very limited. I’m no real fan of tapas either unless made with wholesome ingredients. I suspect that places selling tapas for €1 are merely rehashing leftovers so thanks but no thanks! As you would expect, there are Indian and Chinese restaurants in the vicinity as well as numerous places offering traditional Sunday roasts with all the trimmings. These are well patronised by many ‘living the culture’!

An activity that many newcomers embrace is participation in ferias or street fairs. This is a very old Spanish custom but I have never been a fan of fairs, even in Britain. The thought of marauding crowds and being jostled about simply lacks appeal and I think they are far more suited to the younger generation. Likewise, I would never attend a bull fight, but thankfully, their popularity is on the wane and I can only hope they will soon be a thing of the past. It is nothing but cruelty to the animals, an aspect of Spain that I abhore. Numerous dogs and cats can frequently be found in the wild, often malnourished and unkempt. Whereas most Europeans are generally accustomed to having animals as pets and part of the family unit, many Spaniards have dogs simply as deterrents against intruders, and they are always kept outdoors. They may have the grounds of the property in which to roam, but taking them for daily walks is not a priority.

Finally, entertainment. I have already encountered several ex-pat homes where there is no Spanish television. I would be the first to admit that Spanish broadcasting leaves much to be desired and anyone watching it for a period of time will be eternally grateful for the existence of the BBC. However, it can be a useful tool in getting to grasp the language, especially when watching news broadcasts. With modern broadcasting technology, people here in southern Spain can watch UK television much as they did at home. There are several systems available, one of which is the trusted satellite dish. It can be quite amusing spotting the British-owned homes by the size of the dishes and sometimes being asked the question ‘how big is yours?’ I jest you not! For some inexplicable reason, both Belgian and Dutch residents require a much smaller dish despite the satellites all being in a similar orbit. There is something rather comforting about being able to watch favourite and familiar programmes, especially during the darker nights of winter.

To conclude, I would suggest that ‘living the culture’ is non-definable as it means different things to different people. Personally, I aim to embrace the aspects of Spanish life that are attune to my tastes and beliefs rather than encompassing everything for the sake of appearances. Conversely, I have no wish to simply emulate my lifestyle as it was in the UK, and I am fortunate in residing in a mixed European community. Whilst the majority are British and Spanish, there are also Belgians, Dutch and French residents so, hopefully, this makes for an entente cordiale! One certainty is that I will not be patronising the large number of British and Irish bars with their third rate performers strangling the hits of yesteryear. Instead, I shall veer towards the typical Spanish bar in the hope of experiencing some Flamenco dancing and music.

¡Hasta luego!

How The Mighty Are Falling

The continuing demise of UK household names …

Looking at many of the traditional High Streets or main shopping areas of British towns will reveal numerous empty shop units struggling to find occupants. This is due, in some ways, to the ever-increasing business taxes demanded by local authorities. Taxes have reached such epidemic proportions that many smaller businesses have been forced to close as they became unprofitable. Councils are so short-sighted that they fail to see that a lower income received from occupied premises is better than no income from vacant shop units! Another major contributing factor for the number of empty shops is the long term dominance of retail conglomerates who have either forced small traders out of business or simply swallowed them up.

The buoyant trading decades of the 70s and 80s provided the shopper with real choice as well as convenience. There were traditional small food supermarkets, butchers, bakers and even candlestick makers! Amidst these were traditional ironmongers, china shops, privately-owned chemists, local tea rooms, haberdashery outlets and a variety of clothing chains. Of course, the major shopping centres also boasted departmental stores, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Woolworth to name but a few. Some of these big names still remain but one will struggle to find the variety of shops of yesteryear in a typical town centre. Even some large departmental eg Woolworth and quality furniture eg Maples stores have disappeared into the ether.

A lack of variety undoubtedly means a lack of choice and competitiveness. Sadly, this is the price paid for capitalism where strong players have the clout to squash smaller fry. Contrary to the belief that big is best, it has long been recognised that many big businesses are highly impersonal, lack flexibility, and take the customer for granted. As such, people are voting with their feet and household names such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer are struggling. In simple terms, they have lost their way after stampeding through the last two decades. M&S have regularly declared declining fashion sales, year on year, primarily because they have tried to emulate other more trendy clothes retailers without success. They need to go back to their roots, listen to their customers, and get back to offering well-made quality clothing. The company proudly displayed in-store banners in the 1980s which stated that ‘over 90% of goods were British made’. I doubt if even 5% of what they now sell is sourced in the UK. A trip around any M&S store will reveal considerable tat, especially in the fashion and homeward departments. Ironically, their only long term successes are their food halls and Simply Food outlets.

Although there are about seven major food retailers, the largest by far is Tesco, having become the biggest retailer in the UK and second in the world! The company has back pedalled on several occasions in the last two years or so, launching new discount initiatives and employing various marketing tactics. Much of this has alienated their core customers who, rightly, have been deceived by many of their so-called offers and non-transparent fluctuating prices. The old trickery of new packaging has been used to reduce the weight of countless products, undoubtedly, used by other companies too, but overall instability within Tesco has made the company a prime target. Without trying too hard, Tesco have successfully alienated suppliers, communities and customers alike … finally, it is payback time as suppliers and customers are beginning to dictate terms. It must be asked just how much longer their dominance will last as they continue to lose market share.

Another institution on the brink is the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Anyone who has had the misfortune to watch television abroad will appreciate the sheer professionalism and quality of the BBC, making it the undesputable best broadcaster in the world. A key factor in its overall quality is the lack of advertising which intrudes into programmes on all other channels. On mainstream channels such as ITV and Channel 4, the advertising breaks are regulated, but tune into any of the non-terrestrial channels and you’ll see adverts pop up every few minutes. That is much like most television in mainland Europe, not to mention the United States where it’s not unknown for a commercial break immediately prior to the end programme credits. The BBC is, of course, funded by a licence fee, the price of which has been frozen for about 4 years. There are many critics of this fee due to its cost, but currently it works out at just over £12 a month. This currently provides seven television channels, countless radio stations, and the best online presence of any broadcasting institution. Many of these critics are happy to pay Sky in excess of £50 a month for an array of repeat channels, most of which they will never watch!

So what is contributing to the decline of the BBC? Sadly, there are an increasing number of people who refuse to pay the licence fee, thereby depriving the BBC of much needed income. It is these same people who criticise the broadcaster for lacklustre programming, but in reality they are a contributory cause. If the BBC is to continue being funded in this way, I would suggest the fee is collected as part of any tax liability, meaning that everyone eligible will pay their share. Secondly, the broadcaster is very wasteful with the money entrusted to them. It has become a top-heavy, mis-managed bureaucracy with constant infighting and awash with scandal since the revelations of the late Jimmy Savile. Not only are some of its management grossly overpaid, but they also pay select celebrities stupid money in order to compete with the opposition. A situation has now arisen whereby big names are seen as far more important than talent meaning that only about half their annual budget is actually spent on programmes.

The schedules are full of repeats plus repeats of repeats! It is acknowledged that with the extra channels, it is impossible to fill all the time with new and original programming. It has just been agreed in principle that the youth-orientated BBC3 channel will be closed down and the service made online only. However, they are going to extend the broadcasting hours of the dedicated children’s channels when kids ought to be encouraged to do more practical things rather than watching television! Personally, I think the BBC has missed an opportunity … namely to have a dedicated sports channel and one for showing repeats of classic programmes. This would then keep BBC1 for mainstream entertainment and drama, whilst BBC2 would revert to its original remit of offering alternative and slightly more risqué programming.

In recent years, there has been a constant dumbing down of both content and presentation. Their news output is so biased, politically correct and lacking depth or coverage. The once alternative News Channel now emulates the style of news coverage on BBC1 and scheduled bulletins are simulcast. I fail to see why this is so as the amount of money saved must be marginal. We now see fewer drama productions and innovative documentaries as reality tv is rapidly taking over the BBC. I’m writing this whilst watching the BBC coverage of tennis from Wimbledon. This has always been essential viewing since my childhood and according to their onscreen promotions, the tournament this year can be enjoyed across all media formats. Sadly, this has also proved that bigger is not necessarily better. They must be antagonising countless viewers by switching matches midway from either one channel to another, via the red button facility or online. This never happened a few years ago unless transmission on one channel was coming to an end. Yet more dumbing down …

It is difficult to imagine that the BBC will exist in its present format in 20 years’ time but quite what the future holds is open to debate. As with the likes of Tesco and M&S, the broadcaster needs to return to its core roots and most importantly, listen to their customers ie the viewers! So many large institutions are in danger of imploding which could well signify their permanent demise if they continue to operate as arrogant bureaucracies. Other companies employing similar management tactics should take note!

More Britain In The 1970s

Trends in the decade …

As people yearned to get on the housing ladder, they also yearned for the latest furnishings and gadgets of the time. This was despite the fact that most people could not afford all the so-called luxury items becoming available but help was at hand in the form of the trusted credit card and as mentioned in the first part of this review, the decade saw a dramatic rise in debt. This was coupled with rampant inflation but the credit card was seen as a means of obtaining things at any cost.

The furnishings of the time were hardly going to stand out as design masterpieces or even stand the test of time. It was the beginning of the throwaway era which, sadly, is all too commonplace nowadays. Products were no longer being built to last generations but simply to last a few years in the anticipation that people would return to buy new replacements. One of the most expensive items adorning many people’s homes was the colour television, something that, in the UK, had only been around since 1969 and still commanded a premium price. Anyone reading who is old enough to remember early colour broadcasts will recall either garish resolutions or rather washy images. It seemed almost impossible to obtain a clearly defined picture on the screen, with some makes of tv displaying colours running into each other. Whilst my home did not benefit from colour television until 1974, I remember watching the investiture of Prince Charles at Caernarfon Castle on 1 July 1969, courtesy of a neighbour who had one of the first colour tv sets available. A snippet of the investiture can be found on YouTube which shows just how poor the pictures were compared with today!

The all-in-one compact music players of today, albeit now in rapid decline, were but a dream. Many people had fairly cumbersome gramophone players but the first combined record player, radio and cassette player was just around the corner. This was a decade long before the advent of the compact disc and even cassette tapes were relatively new, an innovation from Philips in the Netherlands. This company also introduced the boombox or ghetto blaster as it was affectionately known. This was essentially a portable device which fused the booming sound of home stereo systems with the convenience of cassette players … all in a small, black but heavy box. The youth of the era could be found roaming the streets with these heavy boxes held up to their heads! As the demand for deeper and louder base increased, so did the size of the ghetto blaster, rendering it almost anything but portable.

Although the first commercially available microwave oven was available as far back as 1947, the item we know today did not really enter domestic markets until the 1970s. Yet again, a microwave was an expensive luxury and actually took considerable time to be adopted as an everyday utensil.  Telephones were still connected by fixed wires to the exchange box inside houses so there was none of the hands-free portability we use today. All phones were the property of British Telecom so the availability of choice was very limited. In fact, the plug-in sockets in use today were only introduced in November 1981!

So what makes of car were people driving? Some of the current big names were obviously around such as Ford and Vauxhall (GM to overseas readers), but modern giants such as Volkswagen only had a limited share of the market. Other marques included Rootes Group products and those from the Austin Rover Group which was formerly British Leyland. Japanese manufacturers were only just beginning to make inroads into the UK domestic market so their popularity was yet to gain momentum. Top sellers of the decade based upon registrations were the Cortina, Escort, Capri and Granada from Ford, the Viva from Vauxhall, the Mini, Marina, Allegro and 1100/1300 range from Austin Rover, and the Avenger from Hillman, part of the Rootes Group. Looking back, many of these vehicles were extremely unreliable and badly made. Compared with the cars of today, most were only equipped with so-called basic levels of comfort.

Tobacco consumption was still very high and in 1971 the government introduced the first printed warning message on the left side of cigarette packets: “WARNING by H.M. Government, SMOKING CAN DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH”. Over time, this began to have an impact and consumption has declined considerably since these first warnings. Nowadays, the warnings are far greater with graphic illustrations of what damage smoking can actually cause. Diametrically opposite this, people were beginning to adopt new eating habits and yoghurts became much more popular in the 1970s. We were still a nation of beer drinkers although lager was adopted by many younger adults. The consumption of wine, however, was low due mainly to an absence of choice and our insulation as an island. In other areas, sales of the tea bag escalated and duvets or continental quilts became the must-have for the bedroom. People began to embrace new technology, albeit on a far lower scale than today, as pocket calculators and digital watches swamped the market place.

The 1970s were certainly a decade of change and new ideas although technological advancements were very much in their infancy. The most compact camera one could use was the Instamatic from Kodak and users of modern day photo-editing apps will see just how poor images actually were. Televisions didn’t come with remote control so one actually had to exercise simply to change the tv channel. On the subject of channels, there were just three to watch … BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. Even Channel 4 was not around as this was launched in November 1982. BBC local radio started as an experiment in the late 1960s but did not expand until the early 1970s at which point Independent Local Radio was also granted licences to broadcast. Despite some of the advances in the decade, it was a time of economic strife and Britain’s position amongst world powers diminished. Some things really don’t change …!

Britain In The 1970s

A decade that is both derided and revered …

Despite all the bad things to be revealed about life in Britain during the 1970s, statistics actually show that living standards were at their best levels for most ordinary families in the decade. This is despite the fact that the years were very difficult for the country, both economically and politically. So what exactly happened in this period? It was a decade which saw four Prime Ministers, industrial unrest, horrendous IRA bombings, dubious fashion styles, a mixture of successful and disastrous motor cars, not to mention the coloured bathroom suites!

After years of Socialist rule, the Conservatives were returned to power under their new leadership of Edward Heath. Like all politicians, he made laughable promises that would effectively reinvent the wheel. This was at a time when Britain was resting on its laurels and enjoying post-war affluence, oblivious to the fact that other nations were becoming both more competitive and innovative. It was Edward Heath who sealed the UK membership of what was then the Common Market of Europe, but he would also reign supreme over a financial crash, a miner’s strike and an ensuing energy crisis. Amidst all this, more people were becoming home owners as lending rules were relaxed. New suburban homes were springing up offering the latest in modern design and that ubiquitous choice of coloured bathroom suite. How many readers will be familiar with the pink and lemon suites, not to mention the then popular avocado?

As is the trend in a buoyant building period, people were also splashing out on trendy 70s-style furnishings. Top of the list was a colour television, which although introduced in the late 1960s, was still very much a luxury item. Popular tv shows included Dad’s Army, The Liver Birds, Pebble Mill At One, and Love Thy Neighbour. Surprisingly, familiar titles such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale, A Question Of Sport, and MasterMind still dominate our schedules nearly 40 years on! It was a time when normal working-class people could afford a few luxuries and the latest trend in toys for their children. How many remember the Raleigh Chopper bicycle and the ludicrous space hopper?

Another trend to take off in the 1970s was the package holiday abroad. The number of people flying off to Spain or similar increased by a staggering 200% as a fortnight in the sun became affordable to the masses. This did nothing for the domestic economy which was already suffering as a result of non-competitiveness. The decade also saw the Silver Jubilee of HM The Queen in 1977 and way back in February 1971,  our currency was finally decimalised. Gone were the 240 old pennies to the pound, to be replaced by 100 new pennies to the pound. Inevitably, people were suspicious that prices would rise as a result but in truth this was not generally the case although high inflation would soon contribute to higher prices.

In order to try and combat inflation, Edward Heath introduced a stringent incomes policy leading to a devastating miners’ strike. He went to the country in 1974 and lost the election to the former Labour PM Harold Wilson who managed to get the country back to work but inflation reached a staggering 30% and unemployment peaked at over a million. Eventually he resigned his leadership of his party and was succeeded by James Callaghan who failed to get unions to limit pay increases to 5% resulting in yet another bout of crippling strikes … the period from 1978-79 now known as The Winter of Discontent. Such was the state of the country at the time that more people actually emigrated than entered the country. Even Callaghan had previously voiced disdain at the state of our nation with our dominance in the world shrinking and the country lacking economic strength. Not surprisingly, the 1979 election returned power to the Conservative party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher who became the first, and to date, only woman Prime Minister of Britain. This was to herald a new era and decade, itself renowned for many dubious and life-affecting changes.

So the 1970s was a period of great political instability here in Britain. We had major union uprising, long power cuts and reduced working weeks, diabolical destruction of innocent lives, a huge surge in credit card debt as people were tempted by the latest household products, absurd fashion sense … the mini skirt, flared trousers, platform-soled shoes … and without doubt a major decline in moral standards, However, despite everything, some people look back on the decade with a weird affection. This will undoubtedly be the reaction of many no matter which is their defining decade.

A second article will look more closely at some of the other changes in the decade.

Daytime Television

A slightly tongue-in-cheek view of daytime tv in the United Kingdom which is not meant to cause offence …

Having considerable time on my hands owing to a hefty downfall in my workload, I’ve finally found the time to write something about daytime television. The first thing I must point out is that I’m no advocate of the facility but in order to be even slightly constructive. I’ve had to force myself to dip into the schedules and what a nightmare it has been. Thankfully the day starts off quite well with BBC Breakfast, a programme that manages to strike a fair balance between serious news coverage and the world of entertainment. Contrast this with the abysmal Daybreak on ITV which lacks any gravitas and currently is presented by two people who combined have the charisma of a dead wasp. In fact, the male presenter looks rather like a dead wasp! Still, I digress.

Immediately following Breakfast, the BBC offers a variety of programming in the slot up to 10am. At the time of writing, viewers are being informed about consumer issues in Rip Off Britain, a programme that has previously occupied an early evening slot. I suspect that there are not that many people who are unaware that we live in a rip off society, so it rather begs the question as to what benefits this programme has to offer.

As the day progresses, both BBC One and BBC Two between them effectively focus our minds on buying and selling homes or making money from discarded possessions. We can put our Homes Under the Hammer, choose whether To Buy Or Not To Buy, and even Escape To The Country. Having then decided that any relocation would be a logistical nightmare, and opting to stay put, we are encouraged to rummage for Cash In the Attic and convert Trash To Cash. Many of the homes featured are in the upper price bracket, yet it is highly probable that the audience demographic falls into a much lower category. Maybe that’s where the complementary programmes come into their own … a short-term means of survival by disposing of low value assets!

At least these programmes have some educational value! Compare them with the dross over on ITV during the day. There’s some bloke called Jeremy Kyle who manages to find the low life in society who are happy to air their dirty linen in public, or at least via the medium of national television. Just where do these people come from? One has to wonder whether or not some of the scenarios are staged simply for dramatic effect and to woo the audiences. Following this daily slanging match, we are loosely entertained by the insipid This Morning, a programme that lost all credibility after the departure of Richard and Judy. Talk about milking a dead cow!!

Just when I thought that things couldn’t get any worse, four Loose Women pop up. I fail to see the point of this trash other than as an outlet for the presenters to impart their highly inflated egotistical opinions upon bewildered viewers. Their guests struggled to get a word in edgeways, though this is hardly surprising given that the women include Janet Street-Porter, Denise Welch and Jenny Éclair. After a break for lunchtime news, BBC One offers a daily dose of Doctors, set in a fictional suburb of Birmingham. In fairness to this programme, it really deserves a better timeslot and would be best suited in the early evening prior to the news at 6pm.

In the afternoon, ITV hits back at the BBC with May The Best House Win whereby homeowners rate one another’s properties. This offered absolutely no staying power given that it would only be of the slightest interest to people in the immediate locality, so I was next serenaded by the over-powering and blinding David Dickinson trying to give me a Real Deal on things I’d sold earlier in the day when rummaging in my attic! As if that wasn’t enough, BBC Two encourages me to Flog It! in the late afternoon after I’d previously turned trash to cash.

So what alternative offerings do the main channels offer their daytime audience? Basically a plethora of quiz shows! Currently BBC Two shows Weakest Link, a programme that is now way past its sell-by date. It never ceases to amaze me what stupid answers some of the contestants give to the simplest of questions. Over on Channel 4 Countdown continues to reign supreme. Somehow this programme manages to stay fresh as the challenge to find words and numbers is different in every round. This was also the very first programme to be broadcast by the channel on its launch day in November 1982. Following this short period of brain-stimulation comes Deal Or No Deal, a show that almost renders me speechless. At best, this is a programme of simple luck, yet it has been promoted to a game of great skill and power of mind. I find it hilarious that contestants admit to any form of game plan, and actually enjoy seeing some of them humiliated because of greed in turning down what many would consider worthy sums of money. Finally, to round of the daytime schedule, BBC One now offers us Pointless and never has a programme been so aptly named!

I’ve just realised I’ve failed to mention Channel 5! Does anyone actually watch this channel? They appear to offer a bland mix of so-called discussion shows in the mornings followed by an hourly dose of Australian soaps, which even native Australians rarely watch.

I am not suggesting that daytime television shouldn’t exist but do feel that the programme content could be far more varied and the time slots used to show archive programming such as award-winning dramas and documentaries. Of course, in this technological age, the television is only one means of watching programmes, and with the advent of so many channels, quality standards were bound to suffer. Still, it is a sad indictment on the part of broadcasting executives that they think the only people watching during the day are of limited intelligence and would not have the ability to absorb more mentally stimulating programmes.

Having sacrificed time and energy to absorb the dross that comprises daytime tv scheduling, I can happily say that I will not be tuning in on a regular basis, much preferring to read a good book or listen to music.