Last week the fateful letter from the government arrived in the local mail marked in very large all caps: “IMPORTANT INFORMATION IF YOU WANT TO WATCH TV AFTER 1 DECEMBER.” I haven’t opened the letter yet because I’m still fuming over Freeview and must explain a few things before I see what sort of a shit sandwich is inside. Warning: this is going to get sweary.
The man at Harvey Norman was reassuring. There’s built-in Freeview with all the TV sets now – you don’t need to buy a separate box. That’s good isn’t it. Because to be TV it’s got to be free… right. That’s what uncle Pio on the ads has been telling us for the last year. And then the man says… ‘Oh, where do you live’? Well what’s that got to do with it? I get TV now where I am, the whole town and most of the district does. So what? I get a new TV with FV built-in and whacko. Eh. Just plug in the aerial as per and she’s apples. Right. Right? And then it begins…
If… That’s usually how the public trying to eat a would-be government/corporate shit sandwich begins – with an ‘if’. Oh, he says, if you live in the Eastern Bay – and he sort of waved his hand in the general direction of the 10,000+ people and the 20,000+ square kilometres to the east of Whakatane – you can’t get FV on UHF. OK. Can’t. So…? So you need to get a FV box. Right… But, the FV is built in. Yes. Yes that’s for UHF. You need a FV box for satellite. But… it’s built in. Limply I point to the FV label on the TV set. Yeah, he says, but you can’t get UHF there, you have to buy a FV box. OK, so I have to buy a FV box separately for the TV set with built-in FV… Yeah. But, why isn’t the satellite tuner built-in too? He looks at me blankly: they don’t, they don’t do that – none of them do he says. But, if that’s the only way we can get TV after the 1st of December, what is the point? You’re telling me I need to buy, for about $80, a FV box for a TV festooned with the assurance it is already FV. Yeah. So I might as well stick with the olde worlde TV set and get a FV decoder because all of the scores of different TVs on display are just basically monitors for all they’re worth for everyone down the coast. Yeah. Mmm, yeah… this sorta shit is a bit bigger more of a substantial disappointment than a mere sandwich though isn’t it – more like a shit roll, or a shit burger, perhaps even a shit picnic.
How is this fucking Freeview fuck fest working out? Oh, sure it’s supposed to be better than the old system; but what is the value of the technology if you can’t receive it? Like having a fridge when there is no power.
We are being forced into a reduction of service while it is being sold as an enhancement. Throw those sammies, rolls and burgers and the entire hamper in the pot together, stir, and we are looking at a steaming big crock of it. Just like the planned postal delivery cut-backs. The government is withdrawing services and we slip, by definition, into what we have derisively referred to as the Third World. The government is acting as agent and regulator of the corporates, and together with the government’s own commercial interests (in this case Kordia – the transmission company, and TVNZ, and the non-commercial interests of RNZ and MTS – the state broadcasters ) the government has become conflicted.
Last week I traversed the difficulties with satellite coverage – that the digital signal is worse than the analogue signal and the temperamental “rain fade” interruption with the satellite service is an aggravation beyond anything like the supposed horrors of ghosting and snowing on analogue reception. To be told that satellite is the only method of getting FV – for much of provincial NZ by the sounds of it – is to have that crock emptied all over the viewer.
It is Optus and Inmarsat or PRISMsat or MegaSat that will distribute TV to us now – not KiwiSat or MaoriSat. It is being farmed out to foreigners. As the farms in this country are increasingly being farmed by foreigners. And that is just distribution. Content is already locked up – by Hollywood. Last week we learnt that the Mediaworks restructure has ran into Fox playing hardball in making them take all of their product. Forcing America up our arses. And Vodafone this week have announced their TelstraClear cable system will link up with Sky to coat-tail on the government’s UFB fibre subsidised roll-out (which is itself a back-door subsidy to the Telecom corporate hydra).
This is what happens when the core service is diluted: the government’s mates start creaming it. This is market manipulation.
The conclusion is that FV is designed to be less. FV is planned to be shit. It’s shit so that Sky looks good and so that Igloo – the connivance between Sky and TVNZ – can exist in the crawl space between subscriber and free-to-air television and circumvent the Commerce Commission kicking their arses. It’s shit so it assists the uptake of the government’s fibre roll-out. It’s all a massive have.
Like the wailing tsunami siren that echoed out last week around the Eastern Bay the FV hype may be a message brought to you by the NZ government, but it is a false message. So… now I am seated, now I’ve had a cuppa, and taking a calming deep breath, let’s open this letter proclaiming the rapidly-approaching abolition of TV as we know it.
Two items. A one-sided, single-page letter and a glossy folded pamphlet.
“Dear TV viewer, [blah blah blah…] Going digital frees up the airwaves for next-generation mobile phone services [no mention of how much money is involved and what the costs between the systems are of course so we cannot judge what the government – the viewer – is getting in return] and will mean everybody will be able to get better pictures and more channels no matter where they live. [Lying bastards. The channels are closing on FV not opening. The range is spectacularly underwhelming. The pictures are not better either, they are worse where I am – worse.] You don’t need a new TV, as almost any TV set can go digital with the right equipment. [No details on costs of the right equipment – because it doesn’t matter to whoever is writing this.] [blah, blah, blah…] Yours Sincerely, Greg Harford, National Manager, Going Digital.”
That’s how the abolition of TV goes down, eh. Someone called Greg from the government – without apology, without even the slightest hint this is a cunting, costly hassle imposed on everybody – matter-of-factly informs you six times what you will need to do. Wankers.
Plenty of capitalised headings. A Japanese robot dog, a kid looking like an egg wearing a dorky cycle helmet – all apropos of nothing. Free ads pretty much for Sky and Igloo as you would expect – how convenient. Only inside do we see the fine print: “UHF aerial options. Available to 86% of New Zealand homes.” And the other 14%? How much of that 14% used to enjoy free-to-air TV on terrestrial and now won’t? No, they aren’t going to disclose this are they. “Satellite dish options” it says. But it isn’t an option for the 14% is it – it is a necessity. Saying they are options when they are either needed or aren’t available at all is not an option. They are lying wankers.
We are supposed to be, what? Grateful? Happy?