Thursday, September 09, 2004

yup, this is my new tv

I surrender. I give up. I resign.

Today, I join the ranks of the square-eyed. After all this time, I have bought a television set. It is parked on the end of my dining room table.

I grew up without television, you see, so I never caught the habit young. It was only introduced into South Africa in 1975. Until then, the Honourable Member for Orange Grove would raise the issue every year in Parliament, and every year it would get thrown out. Television, as I recall, would destroy the moral fibre of the country.

What I think the real problem was, the Government was terrified that exposure to world views would reveal to its citizens that there wasn't much moral fibre in apartheid anyway.

Anyway, then someone probably worked out that you could make a lot more money selling television licences than radio licences. And so South Africa joined the real world.

Millions were made by greedy retailers as the television-starved population (and not just in Orange Grove either!) emptied their wallets in preparation for the big day.
Hours were spent staring at the test pattern, waiting for the moment when it would burst into moving pictures.

I was at the age when I didn't want to stay home and watch television. I wanted to go out to discos (which were more or less banned in my home town) and do the things that young people that age do. So this new craze passed me by.

My dad was distraught. How could anyone live a rich and full life without without Rich Man Poor Man? Or Dallas? Eventually he couldn't stand it in any more, and when I moved into my first flat, he bought me a COLOUR television. Wow.

I watched and enjoyed Cosmos. I watched and enjoyed Heidi. I may even have watched an episode of Dallas to find out what the fuss was about. But it never became a part of my life.

Then my TV set was stolen. On the day breakfast TV was introduced. The insurance company, in their wisdom, replaced it rather than pay me out. I used to watch the news but stopped when they showed pictures of a woman being necklaced. For those who don't know what this means, a burning tyre was put around her neck.

My mother came to stay and we discovered the TV was broken. We sent it in to the Extended Guarantee people, but they never fixed it. And I haven't had TV since.

Oh the TV licence people harassed me. Why is it so hard to believe that someone doesn't own and doesn't want to own a TV set?

We moved to England. The TV licence people harassed me. This is a country, if you believe the BNP, that gives TV sets to asylum seekers so they won't feel deprived of home comforts. So of course they can't believe that a normal person doesn't own and doesn't want a TV set.

One month in The Netherlands, and I have a TV set. Why? Do I have a sudden urge to see burning people again? Schoolchildren attached to explosives in Russia? Mutilated bodies in Iraq?

Actually, no.

The Netherlands have scrapped their TV licencing program. They are not trying to add insult to injury. They are not harassing me.

So I can listen to arguments about TV being a good way to learn the Dutch language and the Dutch Culture. I can accept that having a TV set with BBC2 and BBC3 on cable is going to give me something familiar in a country where everything is change. And it is the only way to get anything halfway decent in a radio station.

Interestingly enough, it seems that Dutch television is not a 24-7 affair. On weekend mornings, it seems, there is no television at all.

Come Saturday morning, I think I'll watch the test pattern.

Maybe I'll find out what the Honourable MP for Orange Grove saw in it nearly thirty years ago.