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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Back to the 60s?

6 July 2017

As I have written on a number of occasions, I recall the happy evenings of my childhood when, in a pre-TV era, the family would sit around in the living room, each enjoying their own pastimes.

Dad would be reading the paper, mum browsing a woman's magazine and I'd be elbows deep in some weighty tome about science or technology.

The silence would be broken at 7:30pm when the radio was turned on for another episode of "The Goon Show", "Around the Horn" or something similar.

Other evenings would see everyone decamp to a neighbour's place where the adults would play cards or monopoly and we kids would swap comic-books and paw over old editions of Beano and such.

I guess we all have the benefit of rose-coloured glasses when we look back more than half a century -- but I still think there were some very positive aspects to life in the pre-television era.

Compare the picture I've just painted with life at the turn of the century (2000).

Many families would sit down in front of the TV in the very early evening and stay put -- right up until bed-time.

Even the evening meal was consumed in front of the glowing phosphors of the CRT in the corner and often the next day's conversation at school or work revolved around what had happened in Shortland Street the night before.

How tiny our world had become.

But now I think we're seeing a change and things are headed back to the 60s.

It was this NZH story that got me thinking about this.

Clearly TVNZ and other old-school TV broadcasters are hurting and hurting bad by the changes that are happening. TVNZ's response seems to be to hope that if they say "everything's fine" often enough then the power of mind over matter will save them from a slide into oblivion.

Yeah, right!

SkyTV's response has been to simply hike prices and pretend they have a viable streaming service of their own.

Yeah, right!

And the rest of the TV broadcasting industry seem to be just biding their time in a leaky life-boat, waiting for the inevitable.

But what are *people* doing?

Well it seems that they are no longer planting their fat bums on the sofa at 6pm and wasting a huge percentage of their lives in a vegetative state in front of broadcast TV.

They are instead being far more selective about what they watch and in doing so, they're probably watching a whole lot less. As a result, they're interacting more with the people around them and people around the globe.

The internet and the services that run over it have turned the entire world into a kind of global neighbourhood where some of your best friends might live half a planet away. Despite the distances involved, you probably share interests, discuss the day's events and swap ideas with these people in a way that never happened during the dark days when broadcast TV was king.

Even if you consume the same amount of video material, the absence of ads and the fact that mobile devices allow you to do this "on the run" almost certainly means that you still have a lot more time left with which to interact with the world.

I have a feeling that in another 50 years or so, historians and social commentators will look back at the period from the mid 1960s through to the early 2000s and consider them to be a dark era of social stagnation. An era when so much human capital was lost to the highly addictive drug that was broadcast television.

Just as we look back with scorn on a similar era in our recent history when opium dens were an accepted but highly destructive part of every-day life -- so it will be with the era of broadcast TV.

Have I got this wrong?

Is Andrew Shaw correct when he says that people are dying for more ads and cheap reality crap to be delivered 24/7 to their living rooms?

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