Letter to the Editor . . .

In the current issue of “Computeractive” magazine (not shown above, by the way) the Editor asks for our opinions on the many and varied ways which are available for the receiving and viewing of TV programmes these days. He finishes by asking us for our thoughts on the TV Licence, which is of course, not really a licence at all, but a flat rate tax levied on all TV set owners which goes mainly to fund the BBC. And, so different from the home life of our own dear Lord Reith, more and more people are becoming more and more disenchanted with the BBC which I think has got to pull its socks up if it is to survive.

Dear Mr. Booth,

Here is something for your inbox as awaited . . .

My wife and I are now on the cremation side of 85. I am deaf in my right ear, and for reasons into which we need not go, it cannot accept a hearing aid. My left ear is nearly as bad but I do have an NHS hearing aid for that side.  My wife does not as yet have hearing aids but she has nearly as much difficulty in hearing the TV set as I do.

So, although you often inform us of the many and various ways of receiving TV with or without a licence we have found as the years have gone by that we watch less and less. This is due in part to the difficulties already listed, but also because we find that the programmes on offer do not interest us very much. The latter is obviously subjective, but I do wonder sometimes what other oldies think about this.

When there is something we want to see we have to grapple with the thorny subject of sub titles. With pre recorded programmes these can be satisfactory in a technical sense, but too often display the ignorance of the editors whose knowledge of steam locomotives for example, seems to be stuck at the Thomas the Tank Engine stage. But the unresolved problem is that of sub titles on live programmes. We do like to watch the weather forecast, but the sub titles are usually way behind the forecaster and have “interesting” but erroneous words. The sub titling then stops while someone does some checking and when restarted they are either even further behind reality, or a chunk has been omitted in order to avoid that.

I know that your editorial is about TV, but I think it is pertinent to mention the rise and rise of the podcast. Once upon a time “Help” videos on You Tube were de rigueur but pretty much useless to those with hearing loss.  Now more and more organisations are telling us to keep up to speed by listening to their podcasts which is very inconsiderate of them and doesn’t sit easily with protestations of compliance with disability legislation.

So, knowing that “Action on Hearing Loss” estimate that there are some 12 million people in the UK population with some form of hearing loss it would help people like me if, from time to time, you tested such things as earphones (particularly the hearing through bone variety) with a view to their use by hearing loss readers. And mobile phone reviews might say how hearing loss people got on with them. How good the camera is, or how fast the processor is, or how marvellous the finish of the case appears is irrelevant to the phone’s main purpose – which is the transmission and reception of the human voice.  Remember too that “hearing loss” is just that. It is not a case of not enough volume (shout louder), often too much volume is the culprit.  It is neural loss in the inner ear and so in my case, although in good circumstances I can hold a conversation with someone close by, music is closed to me because it is essentially all about frequencies which the failed hearing organs can no longer resolve. So when you review these things rope in some deaf people and see how they manage.

Lastly, you ask us about the TV Licence.  The days when technically minded young people built themselves wireless telegraphy apparatus and which needed a wireless telegraphy licence are long gone. For some time the question has narrowed down to “How do we fund the BBC ?” and the answer has been, “Via the TV Licence”. Well, I think that the BBC has got to grow up. If it wants income for what it transmits then we must have TV sets that can identify BBC material and log the time occupied in receiving it. And then we pay for what we watched. If it were it be suggested that we might all pay a flat rate for our electricity or gas supplied I think there would be an outcry. Yet we are expected to do just that for our BBC television programmes. At this point we are usually treated to unsubstantiated arguments about what a wonderful institution the BBC is, and “you should see what TV is like in such and such a country”. I don’t buy any of that.  I think I might have done 80 years ago, but not any more. We are much more discriminating now and if rubbish issues from the TV set it gets switched off regardless of channel.  I am quite willing to pay for the few BBC programmes I watch, but I decline to subsidise those who have the TV on all day long as wall paper.

Well, as the Editor of the Church times used to say, “That should annoy somebody !”

About The Author

Born 9 December 1933. Former Royal Air Force person. Retired Church of England Clergyman. Father. Grandfather, and now, Great Grandfather. Citizen of Europe and Fervent Remainer. Thinks that Members of Parliament and especially Ministers of the Crown, who lie to Parliament should be brought before a public tribunal where the evidence can be heard, and examined, and suitable penalties awarded.
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