Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My radical TV experiment

I called Rogers last week and cancelled my cable. Why would I do such a thing, you ask? Partially it's because I believe television is completely inessential to my happiness; I will miss it very little. The other major consideration was cost; the recent rate increase was the final push off the Rogers cliff for me.

As far as I am aware, there is no way to purchase cable that is truly a la carte. Even with basic cable, I am paying for 30 channels, 28 of which I rarely visit.

Then there's the advertising. I can switch the channel, but why should I have to? Why should I pay to be sold something? The whole premise seems backwards, actually. I mean shouldn't Rogers be paying *me*?

Jacob Fisker, who writes the blog, Early Retirement Extreme, makes the point that TV can steal our motivation and keep us spinning our wheels in one place. I couldn't agree more. The few hours we have outside of work and sleep are precious; I want to use them actively, to enrich my life, rather than in a passive mode of consumption.

Of course there's nothing wrong with watching a little TV now and then; the problem is that for many of us, it's a default mode. My current usage is about 4-5 hours a week. I rarely watch it on weekends; I just find there are too many other things to do. It's more an issue of switching it on after work, when I'm exhausted.

So, will I miss my "hopeless little screen"? If I do, it's worth noting that HDTV signals from the major stations are transmitted from the top of the CN tower, free for the taking with a receiver you can buy for the price of one month's cable bill (or less) at any electronics store.

Marketing trains us to think within certain parameters; we are likely to think of the available options as Rogers or Bell rather than a TV / no TV (or free TV) paradigm. Never mind all the concepts TV is constantly feeding us about our "lifestyles" - a certain kind of person drives a certain kind of car to a certain kind of restaurant after a certain kind of day with their certain kind of family. I think it's limiting even if you don't buy into it. The concept that our identities can be defined through our purchases is still floating around out there, and it's massive.

When I tell people I cancelled my cable, the most common reaction is one of bewilderment, and then denial: "Oh, I couldn't live without it."

I submit that we all could, if we wanted to. It certainly can't hurt to try.

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