I enjoy the approach of Christmas. Taken in the right spirit, it can be a gentle, reflective time of year. Let others whip themselves - or each other if they like - into a frenzy as shopping days run out. There are aspects of the festive season whose anticipation is something to savour.
What could be more pleasant, for example, than to contemplate the Christmas television schedules and plan a week's guilt-free inactivity? Watching telly is what we are supposed to do at Christmas. It would be wilful defiance of the commercial spirit of the festival not to.
This may not be the case for much longer, however. Research from the US suggests people are deserting the television to spend more time with their PCs. Forrester Research inelegantly refers to it as "the continuing creep of PCs into US households" and found 78% of interviewees prepared to admit they were "sacrificing" viewing time.
On the assumption that most American trends find their way here sooner or later, should we look forward to a gradual decline in tele-vision's power over the gullible and infirm? Perhaps not. The suspect part of this package is that odd word "sacrifice".
Someone called Bill Bass, a senior analyst at Forrester, is quoted as believing that "consumers are choosing PCs over TVs because PCs are multi-dimensional tools - they can be used for entertainment, communication and education". Mr Bass apparently lives in the US, but what planet he inhabits is another matter. His comment sounds quite plausible until you consider the difficulties faced by the average American TV viewer. The multidimensional appeal of the PC, in itself an arguable attraction, is hardly the only factor in the equation.
Let's leave aside any mention of the quality of US TV. Were it poor, it should encourage people to find something else to do with their time.
But poverty of content is a difficult judgement to sustain without the argument degenerating. In any case, these former viewers are said to be "sacrificing" their viewing habit. If it were something they didn't value, they would use a less dramatic word.
Instead we should consider the quantity of television across the Atlantic.
It is vast. One result of the proliferation of channels and programmes is that listings become unintelligible, a development that appears to surprise almost everyone concerned except the viewer. The television schedules in the US are on the same level of complexity as British Rail's pricing arrangements. It takes a great deal of effort to work out what the options are for an evening's viewing. One item might catch your eye, but by the time you've checked there's nothing preferable on a dozen other channels you risk forgetting the original selection. Who wants to work out an evening's light entertainment on a three-dimensional spreadsheet? Most people will simply rent a video instead.
Trying to make sense of the listings is oddly similar to reading a manual.
It takes an effort you feel instinctively should not be necessary. In the case of the manual, this is because: your three-year-old can use the machine without being able to read; the suppliers witter on about how intuitive it all is; and the manual doesn't quite make sense. In the case of TV listings, it is because you remember a time when there were only four channels and less choice was mysteriously more. This reflection will prompt longings of the Golden Age variety. Since the Golden Age, something has been lost - sacrificed, if you like. And what is responsible? Progress, represented in this instance by the PC. Overwhelmed by the weight of this logic, the British TV viewer will sink deeper into the couch and growl at anyone who tries to take the remote control away.
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