The first thing I can remember watching on television was the test card, circa late 1960s. I can even remember the music that accompanied it, although I don't know its title. It went: dum dum du-du-du-du-dum, duh-dum dum du-duuum. I remember thinking the clown doll the girl on the test card was playing noughts and crosses against was quite horrific. I was not a simpleton who habitually watched test cards, I was waiting for Thunderbirds to start.
The second thing I remember watching was the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969. I'd have been a few days short of five years old at the time and I remember my father telling me this was "a big thing".
Back then we only had three channels: BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV, none of which had 24-hour broadcasts. Things started at 7AM or 8AM and they were shut down with a national anthem at about midnight.
Things have moved on since then, although the BBC retains an authentic feature from stone-age television. Instead of one of their regional news reports, they sometimes just show a message telling me I can't receive that particular broadcast. This is utterly pointless and only the BBC would do such a thing. I don't know the reason for this. Maybe it's technical, maybe it's bureaucratic or maybe they just don't like the cut of my jib. Either way, sort it out Beeb.
BBC's regional broadcasting has always been a bit strange. I used to live quite close to the Welsh border and I'd sometimes notice that, whilst England got something shiny and exciting to watch, the Welsh would have to suffer Pog-y-Bolllllocks, which, the blurb would tell us, is a documentary about sheep testicles for hill farmers in Llanwellyboots. I appreciate the importance of regional cultures, but I couldn't believe anyone — even the Welsh — would rather watch that than the exciting thing England was getting.
And don't get me started on the TV licence. I realise we're not the only country in the world to use such a funding method, but it's wrong. The fundamental problem is that one pays the licence fee just for owning a television, regardless of whether one watches the channel it is funding. I want the ability to opt out of the BBC even though I wouldn't actually do that in practice — it's a principle thing. The BBC is easily the best terrestrial broadcaster in the UK, but I shouldn't be forced to pay for something I may choose not to watch. At the very least they should rebrand the licence as a tax because that's what it is. The mere concept of needing a licence for a television is odd. I can see why we need one for a gun, a car or even a dog, but a television? Then again, the world's a bit crackers these days — maybe the only surprise is that you can't be prosecuted for being drunk in charge of a television.
Anyway, this is all besides the point. We now have millions of channels broadcasting 24x7. There's Sky, BT, Virgin, FreeSat, FreeView and others, and a lot of them serve up nonsense I can't stand watching: reality TV, Strictly Come X-Factor, endless antique and cookery programmes, pointless soap operas and things of that ilk. There are exceptions. The BBC produces good dramas and they make fantastic documentaries, but, besides those things, I don't watch much regular television these days.
I thus find myself mainly watching Netflix and Amazon Prime. There is some dross to be found there too of course, but there are a lot of good series' I can immerse myself in. The other advantage is that they've dispensed with the concept of having to wait a week to watch the next episode of something. That always used to be the way of things before streaming platforms came along, but TV-on-demand feels much more modern in comparison. I can just binge-watch things as and when I please.
Or at least that's mostly the case. I have noticed that some programmes broadcast by streaming platforms — often their premium, latest ones — still follow a 20th Century philosophy and we just get one episode a week. This is archaic and it's a very bad idea. What purpose does it serve? The TV broadcasters could get away with it when waiting a week was the only option, but nobody needs to put up it with now. It does nothing to retain viewers. In fact, it increases the chance of losing them. If I can't stream the next episode immediately, I'll start watching something else and might never return to the other series.
Again I ask: what purpose does it serve? A viewer is a viewer. If I watch three episodes in one night it achieves the same objective for the broadcaster as watching them over three weeks. Quite why they retain this throwback to the old days of TV is beyond me. It's almost like they're discarding one of their primary USPs. I do not believe any viewer wants this. Nobody would choose to wait a week to watching something rather than watch it right now.
Everything is better if it's immediate. Imagine if a waiter brought your starter but didn't bring the main course until a week later. Or if you went to hospital with a gaping hole in your head but the doctor only put one stitch in and told you to come back on subsequent weeks for the remaining 25 stitches. You wouldn't be impressed, would you?
Broadcasters need to divest themselves of weekly schedules, particularly the streaming broadcasters. It's a relic of the past, like the horse and cart, the dial-up modem or the black death.
That said, Netflix is still the television service I get most value from, and at £8.99/month it's cheaper than the TV licence.