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A Search for the Lost Soul of TV

I never watch TV – in the traditional sense – any more.

Well, almost never.

We don’t subscribe to Sky. I’m sure there’s many dramatic and inspiring viewing options there if you’re prepared to pay for them, but we aren’t.

I would have considered subscribing once – but when TVNZ 6 and 7 were decimated and the choicest plums handed to Sky it outraged me to the point where I don’t think I could bring myself to subscribe now.

(High-quality TV developed with taxpayer funding – and it ends up behind a paywall? Something not-quite-right there.)

Amusingly, our household aversion to pay TV doesn’t stop the tele-marketers. At 6.30pm-ish at least once a month we’ll get a call from someone trying to entice us into a Sky package. Turning them down is such a well-worn ritual that even my six-year-old says unprompted now, ‘if you’re calling from Sky Mum and Dad don’t want it.’

There is the odd time when I feel the magnetic pull of the couch and switch on the set, but I find it so hard to tolerate the incessant ads.

The other night I had an optimistic channel-surf – and it was all s**t, as usual. But then I chanced upon a show on Maori TV that was, simply, a lovely old kuia reminiscing about her early years. That was it – honest, nothing flashy. And utterly compelling – I couldn’t tear myself away. You couldn’t put a Harvey Normans’ ad in the middle of that.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, certain programmes were a family ritual. Sunday night we’d gather and watch the Muppets, or Life on Earth. I know that’s nostalgic. I know there were ads then (albeit fewer). But I’d love there to be some high-quality family TV that I could sit and watch together with my kids of an evening. Not DIY-product-placement-masquerading-as-content. Not hyped-up, breathless talent quests.

Just genuinely great, informative, entertaining, family telly.

Good on you Maori TV, for making programmes with real soul.

I’d love to see that on a channel for the rest of us.

Miranda James is a member of the Coalition for Better Broadcasting.

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