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Farewell To Free-To-Air Television

By Dan Hutton on May 15, 2012 in

I rarely watch free-to-air commercial television anymore. I get my news from the Net, watch sport on pay TV or at the pub, catch movies at the cinema and indulge in television series on DVD or download them online.

The kiss of death was given to the newspaper industry a number of years ago and while they continue to push on with print (despite slimmer circulation figures), they have been forced to move much of their content online in order to continue to compete. But how will television networks adapt?

It doesn’t seem to be getting mentioned all that much but I think free-to-air television may just be the next medium to really feel the pinch, and to be honest, I couldn’t care less.

I’m sick of Packer and Stokes dictating what I should be watching, especially when they’re forcing Ameri-crap comedies like ‘Two and a Half Men’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother’ upon me. Even worse is their over-reliance on cheap-to-produce Australian reality-style shows like My Kitchen Rules, Australia’s Got Talent and The Block to fill the quota of compulsory local content (which I believe sits at 55%). Clearly they’re programming for the people out at Prestons rather than those residing in Point Piper!

On another note, what was with that Easter non-ratings period? Just when they did start to hook people into a few shows they threw that in, which basically meant reruns of the aforementioned Ameri-crap comedies, outdated (and overrated) movies and countless promotions for the baloney they’re hoping will ramp up their ratings in the future. What a turn-off – literally!

When I do tune in to free-to-air these days, more often than not it is good old ‘Aunty’ that gets my attention. I must admit though, more and more lately I am finding myself going to their online ABC iView to watch shows in my own time rather than pandering to their schedule.

With the power of the NBN nearly upon us (if it ever gets finished without sending the country broke), combined with products such as Apple TV, Telstra’s T-Box, FetchTV, Quickflix and Netflix (if it ever comes to Australia), free-to-air commercial television could be in a world of trouble. Add to this the already existing ease of online piracy through ‘torrents’ and free-to-air television’s fate seems to be sealed. You can already essentially program your own personal television station on which you can watch anything you want, whenever you want, without having to sit through annoying advertisements or switch channels to escape even more irritating US sitcoms.

Just think about it, without free-to-air television we would never have had put up with that pompous tit Bert Newton and his camp mate Kennedy, and Moonface’s son Matt would not be making headlines with his maniacal misdemeanours as no one would give two hoots about him. In fact, Patty probably wouldn’t have given Bert the time of day had he not had such a profile, so Matt may never have even made it into existence.

If free-to-air television is going the way of the dodo, I get the feeling that the Ten Network will be the first to die. And the way that Channel 7 is stretching its ratings lead, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Nine follows suit soon after.

Would it be such a bad thing if free-to-air television ceased to exist? The only sleep I’d be losing is when I watch an entire series of The Sopranos in one hit.