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Aug 172012
 

In their infinite wisdom, the government long ago decided to insist that TV programmes recorded after the “watershed” should require a PIN code before viewing. Now I can see the justification for this – it’s to protect the children. But …

There’s no children here, so why can’t I turn it off ?

Plus (and possibly even more irritating), whilst it was probably the best that could be done during the analogue era (at least for a reasonable price), we can almost certainly do better during the digital era. Rather than simply look at when a TV programme is being broadcast at, why not look at the content?

There are plenty of programmes broadcast after the watershed that whilst may not be aimed at children certainly don’t have the kind of content that would be “dangerous” for children to watch. After all many are later repeated during the day!

Oct 282009
 

I am not an audiophile – perhaps indicated by buying a QTV-2 rather than something more “serious”. I certainly did not want some sort of complicated setup that required tons of wires and another complicated remote control. So the QTV-2 looked like a fairly simple way of improving the audio on my TV without going to a great deal of effort.

So I took a chance and bought one. It’s a large box when it turns up, and unpacking it reveals the speakers themselves – packaged in a flat array designed to bolt onto the back of the TV, various accessories including a bewildering array of bolts, washers and “spacers”. I instantly thought “Uh oh! Looks complicated”, but it turns out that most of the bolts and washers are unnecessary – they’re provided to allow the speakers to be strapped to the back of a range of different TVs. So why cannot TV manufacturers come up with a standard fixing mechanism ?

After spending about 30 minutes connecting the speakers to the back of the TV – fairly easy, although I would have one of those TVs whose connectors are a little obscured by the speakers! After a brief attempt to use the the RCA connectors (unsuccessful because I could not be bothered to hunt down the TV manual!), I resorted to the headphone connector and managed to get the sound working.

For a while I was listening BBC News 24 (or whatever we are supposed to call it now), and immediately noticed that I could lower the volume and still hear the talking much more distinctly than with the TVs speakers. In addition the sound seemed to fill the room much more.

Switching to a film (2001 on Blueray), started to show the benefit of the subwoofer  much greater bass; probably a touch too much, but that will be because of the sound adjustments for the TV speakers. But the overall effect was far greater detail in the sound and a greater ability to speech even when mixed in with other sound.

Overall, worth having if you are not interested in a full home cinema system. It greatly increases the clarity and quality of sound over standard TV speakers. In fact in a noisy environment such as my flat (with a high volume of traffic outside the window), it is possible to decrease the volume and yet still hear the sound from the TV clearer than before.

Nov 122008
 

So this morning I am sitting in front of the TV with my caffeine fix and some news channel on to break up the silence. On comes this item about how a school has shown a dramatic improvement after having introduced a new disciplinary regime. Something like an increase of 25% in pupils getting 5 or more GCSEs (cannot recall the exact numbers and it does not matter anyway).

But wait! The reporter goes on to say this increase does not include English or Maths and when those subjects are included, the increase is not quite as dramatic. So English and Maths are unimportant subjects are they ? Or perhaps the story does not come across as so interesting if the real increase is given.

So this reporter has stretched the truth (i.e. lied) by reporting a meaningless statistic that sounds good rather than a proper set of figures which would still sound good to those who do not have unrealistic expectations.

Why does the media do this ? Well obviously to make things sound better than the really are or more usually worse than they usually are. That is fair enough on an entertainment show, but surely news should present the facts and not try to stretch the truth.

Sep 292007
 

One of the things that periodically surfaces to my attention is the debate over the TV license that those in the UK pay. This funds the BBC including TV, radio and Internet activities (there are ‘fringe’ activities which are not funded by the license fee such as the BBC’s World Service. The notion of a tax on watching television is archaic and unfair to commercial broadcasters. However it should stay.

Why?

The first reason for keeping the license fee is that the BBC actually does quite a good job. Not all of it’s activities please everyone, but that is impossible goal to achieve and it is not something that the BBC should be trying to do anyway. Look at BBC News. This is the largest news organisation in the world with a well deserved reputation for probity and honest reporting … in any “big” news event, the UK population tends to switch to the BBC for news.

There are those who criticise the BBC News for impartiality … the one who makes the biggest noise is Israel who claim the BBC is anti-Israeli. Of course Israel views any kind of criticism of Israeli government actions as anti-semitic, so we can probably discount this criticism. In fact the BBC probably is not doing its job properly if it does not get criticised by Israel.

The BBC also produces a large range of original drama, documentary and entertainment programmes of high quality. In recent TV awards, the BBC was awarded 9 out of 20 awards. That sounds like the result a quality organisation would get.

There are those who say that having a well funded public broadcasting organisation is unfair to commercial broadcasters. They are right. So what? Life is unfair, get over it.

A far more subtle point is how the BBC could well be improving the quality of commercial broadcasting by existing. Thus those who only watch commercial TV (I have trouble believing anyone in the UK can actually stick to this!) are actually benefiting from the BBC without watching the BBC! It is hard to justify this claim especially if we are talking about the quality, but we can sort of see the effect on something that most people find irritating … the frequency of ad breaks on commercial channels.

When you watch American TV imports you can often see the pauses where advert breaks would have occurred had you seen the programme in the US; however over here we seem to have settled on having rather fewer breaks. Why? Well there is little commercial reason for doing so, except that if people get too irritated by ad breaks they can switch over to the BBC. So it seems that the existence of the BBC may have resulted in fewer ad breaks on commercial TV in the UK … which I’m sure most would agree is a good thing.

So we have decided that the BBC is good, but what about the license fee ? Well, the license fee is bad but it works … the BBC gets a fairly big chunk of money from it. Any change would risk how much money the BBC gets, and why break something that is not broken ?

Apr 282007
 

Whilst watching TV you wait for the adverts despite the fact your bladder is bursting. When the adverts come on, you rush out, visit the loo, make a coffee, get a sandwich, and get back to find the programme has started whilst you were absent and you’ve missed a bit.

The you realise that with a PVR this was so unnecessary :-

  1. You could have pressed <pause> at any time.
  2. And you were watching a recording anyway.
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