The TV Experiment

Patrick Rhone wrote a great piece about discovering, via his daughter that TV is Broken. I have noticed the same phenomenon with Hazel, she is either confused and annoyed by commercials or she turns into the perfect marketing zombie immediately asking for whatever is being advertised. And that is not even mentioning the annoyance of the auditory volume of commercials, so much so that Congress has taken up legistlation about it.

I have also read Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus in which the entire first chapter discusses our addiction to television:

Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus — comparison of the Gin Craze to contemporary television viewing habits, and speculation on what people would do if not watching television.

Leading up to the Christmas holiday, Esther read Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein, which deals with the “phenomenon of princess culture and in particular how the concept is marketed to young girls” and “young girls’ self-esteem and the sexualization of girlhood”, and I can’t begin to describe how accurate the insights from the book are about how the “princess culture” invades so easily and completely. And that is all without having a cable subscription with the Disney channel on in heavy rotation. Hazel easily becomes a zombie attracted to pink and frilly, highly susceptible to what ever is advertised to her.

I have often read about people who don’t have TV in their life and I find that appealing, but I am hard pressed to actually get rid of all of the televisions in our house. However, last year, we downsized our TV, which is unheard of. We sold our 46 inch monster TV and surround sound and opted to keep the small 24 inch model as our only TV in the house. It has been good, but now that the kids are getting older, I am becoming much more aware of what they consume, advertising and all.

We currently get 65 channels and watch shows on less than a dozen of them, with the actual number shows being between 10 and 15. Of what we watch most of it is not time sensitive, like news or sports. There are a few of these events, namely the Olympics, the World Cup and the Tour de France. Some of these live on niche channels, others do not.

Here is what I am purposing:

We are going to cut the cord. We will get the content for our TV from streaming devices or HD local over-the-air sources, particularly for time sensitive or sporting events.

How:

  • We will use the second generation Apple TV and iTunes to get some shows, as well as newly released movies. We will use Netflix on the Apple TV to entertain the kids with the variety of shows they want.
  • We will use our upscaling DVD player for movies from the RedBox and public library.
  • We have purchased a proper digital over-the-air antenna from Mohu so the few national and international sporting events we want can be watched.
  • We will disconnect out TiVO and while not having any issues with the service, it is always a time sink. The fact that it can suggest shows means that there is always more TV to watch (Yes, I know it can be turned off…).