Saturday 14 November 2009

The Death of Television

This week, the first region in France will switch over to completely digital television transmission. For the people of the Nord-Cotentin zone around Cherbourg, Wednesday the 18th of November will mark the point where those with analogue equipment will cease to receive any signals. Although this switchover is not scheduled to arrive in Paris until 2011, it seems that are already several victims littering the streets.

Television the drug of the nation, or television, window into the nation's psyche? Certainly a home to egos and super-egos, but perhaps less and less a reflection of how each country lives and relaxes. A large percentage of people today spend more time on the internet than they do watching television, and with video on demand or replayed programmes available on the internet after their scheduled slots, fewer and fewer people are watching the same shows at set times.

The principal victim of the digital era though is the old-fashioned television set. With digital signals, the receptor can take any form, right down to a hand-held telephone terminal. The box in this street corner has had its chips. Rejected and thrown out of a warm home, it was too cumbersome and took up too much space in a streamlined world. Final insult, it has been cut open, its guts spilling out across the pavement.

A wounded beast, this creature still has its antennae on its shell. Evolution will soon render these useless, leaving this dinosaur alone to a future of fossilisation. The steering coils were merely mortal, the cathode ray tube gunned into surrender. The life-support wires are still plugged in, but the electrons are negative and frequencies getting lower.

Digital television is the brave new world, but is the medium also writing its own testament? Today I get most of my information through the internet, but when I arrived in France in the 1990s, I learned the language and a lot about the country by watching television. The first things I learned were that French television was not good, and that apparently nothing at all happened outside Paris. Almost every programme lasted for a minimum of two hours, and was either stuffy, serious highbrow or desperate, inane lowbrow. Nothing was middlebrow, very little entertained, but it still helped me to improve my French. Today, my television is still a large box in the corner, but I'm not sure I'll bother upgrading.


e said...

Bonjour Adam,

Having already experienced the downside of the digital shift via a box to translate analog to digital signals that did not work, I decided to live without television and now get most of my programming from the Internet.

It is a pity that I cannot access much Spanish or French language programming as these would help me maintain the first and learn the second more quickly.

I end up with foreign films from Netflix and I know of nothing comparable in France.

Perhaps I'll do some more digging around on the Internet and see what I can find for those interested in French programming.

That would make an interesting adendum to this piece.

jonnifer said...

The worst are those round-table style programs. They seem to last an entire evening! I love the reportages like Envoyé Spécial though.

You are right on about the usefulness of television for newcomers. With the internet you have total control over what you watch or read, so your bias plays a greater role. Especially when it comes to a new culture, it can be better to see what the programmers have selected.

Kcalpesh said...

Had a been a kid right now I'd have bought that to use the parts that can be used to carry out small experiments :-D

- Pixellicious Photos

CarolineLD said...

I've never recovered from the evening where three out of the four channels available on the hotel TV were showing the Michael Jackson memorial service. It nearly went the same way as the one you photographed!

Lunch in Paris said...

Hi Adam -

I took the liberty of re-posting your syphilis photo on Lunch in Paris.

The Hopital Saint Louis remains one of my favorite "secret gardens".

Wonderful to discover your blog.

Best, Elizabeth

Owen said...

Love your pictures here of the wounded beast, and the sad tale they illustrate of a hardwired behemoth that has been bested by a smaller, nimbler foe...

Will there be a cemetery somewhere for the castoffs of our age ? A graveyard for typewriters, for cathode ray tubes and their ilk ? Ahh, it exists already... called a landfill site. North of Paris there are entire valleys being filled in with what gets hauled out of Paris by a veritable noria of trucks day and night. Changing the landscape.

Enjoyed your writing and photos here immensely, and have also photographed an outcast television once or twice in the past. Something so forlorn about them, once the center of so much attention, then out in the cold...

Adam said...

e: It would be great if you could find something along those lines.

jonnifer: You've said it better than me. I watched some awful programmes when I arrived in France and struggled to understand them, but they helped me to get a grasp of the language and a glimpse into the culture. Had I been able to choose what I wanted to watch and when, or had the internet existed at the time, I'm sure I would never have watched these programmes and so would have perhaps not learned anything new.

Kcalpesh: Yes, I was also initially attracted by all the coloured wires and the circuit boards!

Adam said...

Caroline: I missed that one fortunately!

Elizabeth: You're welcome, and thanks for the comments. Your book looks very interesting too!

Owen: I thought of you when putting this post together!

Starman said...

About the only TV show I watch any more is the football game on Sunday. Occasionally a college game on Saturday. Other than that, it's just DVDs because there's not much on TV worth watching.

Adrian said...


Adrian said...

Double yawn.

Adam said...

Thanks for popping by Adrian - you're obviously a very busy man!

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