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My view: we’ve never had it so good with TV

Community member Alfa’s guest post hit a home-run when you all shared your top TV annoyances. From adverts to credits, you want to see change. But is it really that bad? I think our TV is brilliant.

I, for one, didn’t have a clue people were so infuriated with British TV. With 215 comments so far, it seems most of you all think the same thing, which was nicely summed up by Mike Farmer:

‘At the risk of repetition (!) these are my recommended New Year Resolutions for TV Companies and the BBC:

  • Show film credits in full without splitting the screen,
  • Stop running trailers for upcoming programmes,
  • Tell us precisely at what times the weather forecast will be broadcast,
  • Maintain consistent sound volumes’

And it’s definitely the adverts that are the most consistent gripe. GW told us:

 ‘I find the amount of breaks that are being used is over the top in a hour programme you get a break about every 8 mins’

Roger M was also at the end of his tether:

‘So, it’s not just me who is fed up with endless adverts and constant recaps. The “alternative” Freeview channels are particularly bad for this.’

But is it really that bad? Do the adverts annoy you that much?

It’s not as bad as the States

I know I’m going against the grain here, but I personally quite like the TV ads. They’re interesting pieces of TV in themselves. Have any of you seen this Guinness ad? It certainly made me take notice the first time I watched it. Or what about using TV adverts to give campaigns the audience they wouldn’t otherwise get, like the ‘This girl can’ advert?

A few of were brave enough to argue how lucky we are. Lawrie told us:

‘If anyone has ever watched TV in the USA they will have realised how lucky we are.  A typical program begins as follows: Adverts, Intro, Adverts, Titles, Adverts, Main Body of program with ads at 10 minute intervals…. and so it goes on.’

Try watching the Superbowl – there are more ads than sport. Of course, if you don’t like adverts, you could always try Netflix. Netflix even remove the ‘In last week’s episode’ so you don’t have to waste time if you can remember what happened.

So do you really find TV that annoying? Have you tried watching TV in another country – was it any good? And, be honest, have you never seen an advert that sparked your interest?


Who cares that it is worse in the States?

We live here in the UK and what we get here isn’t good enough.

Ian, one problem here is that we have so many channels we import a great deal of American mindless rubbish just to fill air time. It is a great pity we have a need to do this. There are some excellent programmes produced here, in Australia, even some subtitled Continental dramas, but if you want to watch quality TV they take some weeding out.

I’m not interested in adverts and it is a relief when a good programme apears on a BBC channel that I can watch right through without interruption.

It’s a bit provocative to refer to ‘mindless rubbish’. That’s not going to help preserve the reputation that English people are polite and reserved. 🙁

Many years ago I remember chatting to a visitor from the States, who asked how many TV channels we have. I said we now have four, since Channel 4 had recently been launched. He said they had 44 back home but there was still nothing worth watching on a Friday evening. I have a lot of respect for self-deprecation.

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Linterbug says:
27 January 2015

I agree with this comment 100%! We shouldn’t have to accept all these annoyances just because other countries are worse off!! What kind of measure is that! Moreover, the BBC used to have a worldwide reputation for excellence, which you’d have thought it would strive to maintain instead of letting things disintegrate into poor standards – particularly of the spoken word.

My main gripe now is that all those people (like me) who have consistently mentioned other major annoyances seem to have been ignored in Ian’s summing up. This includes such problems as presenters who mispronounce words and place names, overly loud background noise (ie drumming heartbeat noises and metallic scraping sounds as opposed to ‘music’) drowning out the speech, and the problems with subtitles when we resort to using them to try to find out what’s going on.

My favourite programme is on the French channel TV5. About once a month on a Saturday evening, La Plus Grande Cabaret du Monde! Two hours of variety performers. Apart from BGT, you don’t see any proper variety on British TV. Two hours, no adverts and subtitles for the conversation during each act! Brilliant acts from all over the world!

I have seen trailers for an Amercian-style TV programme featuring the “real housewives” of Cheshire. I believe there is also a popular show set in Essex. This must have inspired Alex to ask the question in the Intro above “Have you tried watching TV in another county – was it any good?” Unfortunately I must have missed these out-of-county viewing oopportunities. I just hope nobody thinks of doing something along the lines of “The Normal Folk of Norfolk”. It wouldn’t grip. Norwich does have its own local TV station called, of course, Mustard TV. I haven’t caught up with it yet: it’s probably the entertainment equivalent of a poultice.

Alex must have been referring to the regional broadcasts of the BBC although Sky very kindly make them available to all of us.

Otherwise telly is much the same in Cornwall, Kent or Caithness.

Glad my convo hit a home run and that others shared my annoyances.

I left out adverts as they are how most TV companies get their income and without them we would not have the choice of the many channels on offer. But saying that, I would hate that our TV got as bad as the States where there are more adverts than programme content.

We record and fast-forward through most of the adverts but do quite like the meerkats and their on-going story line. Also waiting to see what happens to Brian the robot and how his friends are going to rescue him.

Both of which are for price comparison sites! 😉 Pity Moneysupermarket.com couldn’t take a leaf out of their book instead of that trash they keep putting on!

When you consider the production values and consequent costs of the comparison websites’ TV commercials and also the high-price prime-time screenings they get, and bear in mind the fact that these companies advertise heavily in other media, you realise what a colossal sum is being skimmed off the insurance, energy and other markets to support this parasitic industry. I can’t make my mind up on whether or not it is beneficial overall. There is no doubt that many consumers have been able to use these sites as a quick way of getting a better quote and they have enabled newer, and perhaps cheaper, providers to get a toe-hold in restricted markets thus improving competition, but against that is the cost to the providers of customer churning that results as well as the commission payable on switches. So while these amusing commercials give us some innocent pleasure, do we really need them at all?

Maklavan says:
24 January 2015

The BBC is not supposed to advertise. Why,then, does it use hours every day advertising its own programmes? Secondly,Why is so much time(sometimes as much as 59 seconds) used in counting down the clock?Over a period of time, this adds up to hours of dead space.

Following some good reviews I tried to watch a program on the UKTV Drama channel only to find that its only available via Freeview in some areas as are the Dave, Really and Yesterday channels.
Its also not available on Freesat or even online.
Annoying as UKTV is a BBC Worldwide joint venture.
Seems to be another case of rural areas of the country loosing out again

Like me you are probably on what’s called a relay transmitter, and yes it’s annoying to only get about a quarter of all the Freeview channels. I believe it’s because the commercial channels have to pay to be transmitted and they don’t think it’s worth doing that for the small number of viewers that are served by relay transmitters.

Yes we are on a relay – as are many in Cumbria and I would imagine many other communities and towns in “hilly” areas are !
What surprised me was the lack of alternative methods of viewing these channels.

Contrary to others’ opinions, whose opinion I do understand, I find the BBC’s adverts for its own programmes to be very helpful. Many times my attention has been drawn to a new series and I have scheduled a recording or subsequently watched it on BBC iPlayer. If this didn’t happen, then I would miss out on a lot of programmes for which I am paying a licence fee.

However, it does annoy me when the BBC advertises anything when a programme is already late to start. If a programme is advertised to start at 21:00, then it should start at precisely 21:00:00. Any self-advertising should happen in the spare time at the end of a programme and not cause a programme to start late.

NFH, agree. These are not “adverts” ,they are information about what they will be broadcasting. Nor do they take up much time. The problem with programmes starting late is when you record them – and miss the ending. My recorder is not intelligent enough to detect this.

Clare says:
28 January 2015

David Attenborough is a legend.

My pet hate is the excessive use of music in documentaries and plays. I gave up on Broadchurch because of this; the din made it unwatchable. This is a familiar theme of letters to Radio Times, but viewers continue to be ignored. It’s even more infuriating because the technology exists to give the viewer a choice; some time ago a documentary was trialled and the viewer could press a button to switch the music on or off. If it works why can’t we have it?

Les F says:
27 January 2015

Since Mrs Thatcher and her chum decided on her “broadcasting act” it has destroyed any kind of tight regulation on the industry. We are plagued with loud and inappropriate music jump cuts flashing effects. BBC’s Watchdog is a good example. Sleight of hand extension of advert times and timing (News at Ten) fiasco with the new “light touch” authority failing miserably to safeguard viewers. Murdoch has a lot to answer for and not just in the Newspaper industry.
Good viewing.

Murdoch has money, and therefore influence. It is, unfortunately. people like him who help form policy and manipulate our government to further their own ends, rather than the politicians who are supposed to represent us. The BBC could well be destroyed if this is allowed to continue.

However, I still believe a musicians’ cabal must have influence on programme content otherwise we would not be fed this inappropriate diet of, often, pointless and uninspired accompaniment. How long will it be before sporting events are routinely plagued with musical sound effects to support the action? Like disliking shop muzak there is perhaps a silent majority who should sing out in unison.

Barbara Williams says:
27 January 2015

Dragged out storyline’s and inconsistent sound quality

The aspect of TV programmes which annoys me most is the sound. Why is it not possible to maintain a consistent volume level? Why is the local news volume different from the national news? Why are programme advertisements broadcast at a higher volume?
I have had to abandon viewing some programmes because the volume of background music makes the speech unintelligible. Why do the news headlines need background “music”, I feel very sorry for viewers who have hearing difficulties.
I have given up viewing BBC Breakfast because the constant blasts of load music disturb other members of my household who are still sleeping.

Polly says:
27 January 2015

Loud music which gets in the way of the dialogue/commentary. Why can’t this be turned on and off like subtitles. Even worse for anyone with hearing difficulties.

US TV produces some good programmes. Watch Madam Secretary. However the US delivery is appalling. Its worth knowing how bad US TV is so you can defend what you’ve got. These are changing times and the BBC is facing an uncertain future.

USA Free to Air is a joke. All TV is cable and the cost is astronomic. Verizon and Comcast are appalling services. Always finding some way to add a charge without your awareness.

There is vast range of range of channels. All but a few are junk and those are all you get on the basic cable service.

The worst is the adverts. So long, forget making a cuppa, you could cook dinner. In that time you forget what you were watching! Then during adverts the volume is raised to shouting pitch. Not good for your neighbours if you’re away from the volume control making a cuppa.

The BBC was set up to ‘entertain, inform, an educate’ and set the international standard. Pity on some channels the BBC has forgotten its remit. BBC4 is brilliant, especially in the BBC / Open University programmes.

Mick Nesbitt says:
28 January 2015

The main gripe for me is documentaries telling you about the previous ten minutes before the advert break. The show is constantly recapped after every advert break. It’s just very lazy television. On top of this these shows miss out huge important facts. On the car shows they never tell you how much labour and parts and TIME is when they buy and sell a car.

Mr P says:
28 January 2015

Not to mention the programmes designed around recapping. Border Control is one example where they flit from one story-line to another recapping on each occasion. 5 minutes of television dragged screaming into 30 minutes of intolerable guff!

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duncan, I agree about the repeat rubbish. however, if you are suggesting our government should pay for TV entertainment then I’d disagree. I’d rather they put my tax money into more worthwhile causes like education, the NHS and the elderly!

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duncan, to your first point, the BBC is funded to produce programmes from the licence fee as it’s principal source of income. For our benefit, not theirs. Hopefully they will never have to resort to advertising.
Your last point is perhaps meat for a different conversation. One that would be interesting.

Duncan – Don’t forget that the licence fee funds the iPlayer service and BBC radio, even if it is possible to use these services without paying for a licence.

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duncan, this was wavechange’s post. however, if you are correct I thought, perhaps naively, that intercepting phone calls etc required explicit authorisation.

“The Act makes it illegal to tap a phone call, but also makes it illegal to intercept a text message or an email. Certain authorities are allowed to intercept communications under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 including the police and the Secret Intelligence Service where they obtain a warrant from the home secretary. – See more at: http://www.contactlaw.co.uk/blog/disputes/what-is-the-law-regarding-phone-tapping-99294.html#sthash.XJ4z167S.dpuf

Are the manufacturers; committing an offence by incorporating the facility you describe in all their devices? Perhaps aiding and abetting the execution of a criminal offence? 🙁 . If so, should there not be a penalty and redress if it was done intentionally? Or is it OK in the USA and we don’t count?

Duncan – There could be some confusion here. i-Player is BBC TV’s system for making previously broadcast programmes available for watching via internet-enabled devices including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smart-phones. So far as I am aware it has no connexion with Apple’s i-Phone product except that one can access the i-Player “catch-up tv” facility via an i-Phone smart-phone or any other comparable product. People would not generally use such a miniature device for watching a television programme but if what you say is a real potential threat to their data security then it is likely that all their personal data has been transferred long before the user watches catch-up tv. People apprehensive of this risk are careful not to use any such devices.

John – Many people do watch TV and other video on their phones. It’s one reason why tariffs with unlimited data allowances are sought after. Duncan’s comment related to a post by NFH rather than Malcolm.

Most people are reasonably careful about computer security these days but little thought seems to go into the security of phones and tablets.

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I am quite keen on repeats. Friends often mention that they have seen an interesting TV programme, or I read about them on a forum devoted to things I’m interested in. That’s particularly useful if the programme is not available on iPlayer.

I would love to see a TV equivalent of Radio 4’s Pick of the Week, which includes highlights from numerous programmes.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with repeats – quite the contrary. If a programme was interesting, entertaining and well made, whether recent or more elderly, then I am happy to view it for a first time, or to watch it again. After all, we will watch decent feature films two or more times (Some Like it Hot, The Money Pit, some of the James Bond, Ealing comedies like Kind Hearts and Coronets……) so what is the difference with TV programmes? Yes Minister, David Attenborough, Smiley’s People, Porridge……

You can watch the pick of the week in politics on the Parliament channel (along with entertaining select committees Apparently Sir Jeremy Heywood baffled one with language taken from Sir Humphrey, and got away with it. I hope I see a repeat if it was broadcast. Maybe on “This Week?”)


I’m not usually happy to see links to the Daily Mail on this site but I’ve bookmarked that one because it’s entertaining. Thanks Malcolm.

I was watching the business news on BBC and, during a summary of what was going on there was an accompaniment of intrusive mindless music that made it difficult to hear what was being said. Should we blame this nonsense on a proliferation of Media Studies courses at school and university?

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I agree that it’s difficult to take seriously any company that insults our intelligence, and you would think the directors and top executives of such companies would be able to stand up to the advertising agencies and marketing people who induce them to pay for such rot – I suspect they are creating these commercials in order to attract industry awards for themselves rather than to assist their clients increase their market penetration. The price comparison websites are obviously engaged in an “idiotic advert of the year” competition with their pathetic meerkats, ridiculous robots, and now this latest stupid stunt you so nicely describe. The cost of all this is in the service provided, of course, recharged through their commission and ultimately paid by consumers – if you’re buying energy, you’re contributing as well even if you never use these sites.

I have watched TV over the years in France, Germany, Canada, New Zealand , the USA, and in the UK and there is no doubt that the UK’s non-commercial TV is best.

Could and should it be better. Absolutely. There are programme ideas that could be borrowed from other countries. For instance French TV had a programme that looked at distinct administrative areas and the problems or good things that happened there. That program would be an hour or so and believe me any slightly devious council would be loathe to be caught with any juicy stories to enliven the programme. One only has to look at Private Eye or some of the interesting bloggers on-line to realise there are a raft of very interesting stories.

One might say the BBC has a great chance to improve local pride, democracy, expose villains nationally and could be quite cheaply made. One does wonder what is stopping it.

“My view: we’ve never had it so good with TV” If that is your view Alex perhaps it is a function of your youthfulness! : )