One for All and All for One

Feb 25, 2013 1 Comment by

One of the vagaries of satellite TV is that if you subscribe to, say, Sky and have more than one TV in the house you will need to pay extra – £10.25 a month – for a ‘multi-room’ service.  With terrestrial, analogue TV all you needed was an aerial.  The tuner was in the TV.  Many homes have aerial sockets in several rooms to take a proliferation of such TVs.  Digital TVs with built-in tuners operate along the same lines, meaning, for example, four TVs with integral digital tuners all connected to the same digital aerial can watch four different channels at the same time.  However… The more TVs you have hooked up to such a daisy chain, the weaker the individual signals will be, meaning you might need to stump up for a device such as the SLx 8 Way Signal Distribution Amplifierwhich takes one signal and splits it eight ways with no loss of reception quality.

TF has always thought Sky multi-room was a big fat con.  You need another Sky digi-box for each room/set.  Depending on which box you want they could cost from nothing to £249 each.  And although one satellite dish can feed up to eight digi-boxes you pay £10.25 a month per box on top of what you already pay.

TF has discovered that music streaming site Spotify works along similar principles.  We pay £9.99 a month for their Premium service, which means we listen to no ads and can also drop tunes onto a smartphone and take them with us.  Consider all the devices that can access Spotify – iPad, PC, smartphone – and it’s easy to imagine a circumstance where this Fogey wants to listen on a PC upstairs while Mrs Fogey is streaming via her iPhone downstairs.  Can’t be done on the one subscription; we’d need to take out a new, separate subscription for both of us to access Spotify at the same time.  In this instance the Spotify service is specific to the individual rather than the household.  TF often has light-bulb moments while scribbling and this is one, because for all the grandiose talk of online communities, groups and networks they are just the means by which information is disseminated to individuals.  We could try and get all philosophical here but would only get a headache.  Basically, the tat-mongers are only really interested in groups of one – you.  We know.  Doh!  Obvious.  Avarice aside, there is no reason why Sky can’t let you hook up eight TVs to your one satellite dish, and it’s not as though they could claim they owe it to their advertisers etc because the same would apply to Freeview’s commercial channels. They’re just greedy. And let’s not imagine that the landlord with eight flats is going to get away (for long) with pretending it’s one house with eight bedrooms.

Spotify is remarkable and we love it dearly but it and Sky’s subscription model are a taste of things to come in terms of what you pay for and what you get.  Spotify is little more than user-defined radio, which itself is as damning an indictment of free-to-air music radio as it’s possible to imagine.  TF thought the advent of digital music – even as far back as the introduction of the CD – would mean a much broader cross-section of music being played on both BBC and commercial radio.  Instead it’s the same old crap, over and over; reminiscent of the dreary, formulaic, repetitive FM radio that came to blight the US music scene from the 70s onwards.  If a Led Zeppelin track was played it would be Stairway to Heaven, The Eagles – Hotel California, Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird ad infinitum.  Digital stations are little better.  Even something as anodyne as Magic plays the same tripe over and over and over again.  TF has a soft spot for Steely Dan but few of their tracks that weren’t singles ever seem to be played on the radio. It’s a great song but how much do you wish Rikki had lost that fucking number for good? We gave up listening to music radio in the 80s and since we mostly listen in the car even the maligned gesture that is the BBC’s exclusively digital 6 Music is wasted on us (and we know there are digital car radios but they’re crap).

TF has always been slightly perturbed that the principal requirements for being a pub landlord seem to involve an intense dislike of people, good food and tasty beverages.  Of course, a license is required to operate a public house but if our experience of our local in Suffolk is anything to go by, the licensing authority aren’t in the least bit concerned as to whether the licensee is an utter twat, intent on driving the business into the ground, claim there was no demand for a pub, that the locals ‘didn’t support him’ and then sell the place to build a few hutch-homes and swan off to Marbella on the proceeds.  The comparison is apt because if music radio is shite, or difficult to find it simply pushes the committed music-lover into the tentacled embrace of Spotify and its ilk.  If your pub is a toilet serving swill and scraps we’ll find one that isn’t and doesn’t, and if we can’t manage that, we’ll fester at home with a bag of pork scratchings and three litres of Diamond White – watching Sky TV and listening to Spotify.  And it’s not as though there’s some sort of conspiracy to drive punters into the arms of pay-TV or pay-music services.  There doesn’t need to be.  All that’s required are low standards.  Mediocrity. A lack of imagination.  Consumers will do the rest.


Here endeth the rambling rant.