Thursday, December 3, 2009

The TV Experiment is over -- but continues.

On November 2 we turned off our TV. Totally. No TV, no DVD's, No Xbox. Nothing. We planned to turn everything back on for December, specifically December 4. It was an awesome month of reading, listening to music, playing games, and doing other non-tv-focused things. We did not enforce the no-tv rule for our vacation, but at home we did. At the end of the month I got to thinking about the experiment. Here are my thoughts:

I didn't have a DirecTV bill last month, but if I did, it would have been higher than my electric bill.


How did I not notice this before? It's amazing what a month off will do to provide clarity to a matter like this. That is absolutely ridiculous. On one hand, I have something that provides light for my family, ignites my stove, runs my oven, powers my clocks, powers the stereo, tv, air conditioning, runs the heater fan, runs my computer, powers my iPhone, powers the dishwasher and clothes washer, and is very difficult to live without in this day and age.

On the other hand, I have programming for my TV. And that costs MORE than electricity? Something is SERIOUSLY out of whack.

So I called DirecTV and told them that my bill was far too high, and that they needed to give me speed channel for less than $40 per month, or we were done. Since a new subscriber can get a package that includes SpeedTV for $34.95 this should be easy right? Apparently not. They would not budge on the "new subscribers only" mandate, so they lost a customer of 11 years. I guess it's ok to ripoff your current customers in their book, so I'm done. I am no longer a DirecTV customer.

Will I sign up for DIsh Network? Maybe. But for now, we will turn our TV back on tomorrow without service of any kind. Unfortunately where we live we cannot get OTA tv of any kind. There IS a translator, although I'm pretty sure it only broadcasts analog despite the digital drop dead date being long gone. The last time we tried it, we couldn't get anything, but I'm thinking that MAYBE if I put an antenna outside I might be able to pull in some signals so we can at least have a few things available. I have heard great things about this antenna, so maybe Jacob and I will build one and see if we can get any OTA TV at our house.

Of course the next question is if my tv can even tune in the analog stations. Sadly there is no deadline nor even a plan of one for the LPTV translators that serve communities like ours. It's astonishing to me that we can be considered in the "market" of a tv station, and yet they can do nothing to insure we get their signal and that's ok...

So anyway, back to the experiment. We didn't enforce the rules while we were on vacation, so there was a LOT of xbox going on with the kids and we watched a few movies. But we are back home and we still haven't used our tv (ok, Patty may have cheated yesterday, but we didn't make the rules clear for December) yet. Tonight the TV is allowed back on, and I am hoping to have a movie night, should be a nice treat.

We will allow dvd's and xbox starting today, although we have decided to limit the kids to xbox on Wednesdays and Fridays + weekends only. We initially wanted weekends only, but that would mean they could never play with their friends next door who come over in the afternoons after school and we wanted to be nice. This was actually a cool teachable moment for my son, because was upset about it when we said weekends only, and he expressed that it meant he couldn't play with his friends. Patty and I talked about it later, and then were able to communicate that we had listened to him and decided to change our minds. He was really happy, I think more about being listened to than about the decision itself. It was cool.

On the whole, it has been a great month for me. Life is better without tv, and I have grown a lot by reading a ton of books. I plan to continue this and try to leave the tv off. You can monitor my progress by the number of book reviews I post :-)

Now you've heard from me, here's Patty's take:

It is a bit unusual that we live in Southern California, yet in our rural area we have no cable lines, very limited radio reception, no access to quality/affordable High Speed internet, and the Los Angeles newspapers consider us too rural for their delivery routes. I'm feeling a bit isolated and ignorant again. I do like the space, the quiet, seeing the stars (except when pastor Scott turns his light on and blocks them), and our home. But with the media isolation, it can seem like we are in a third world country, to use an exaggeration. When we had television, I had a link to the outside world. I'm realizing that television is more than entertainment, although admittedly that is the majority of what we use it for. I agree that the DirecTV pricing is out of line with the worth we place in it. Many people also feel this way. Something has to change.


So.... We are a bit divided on whether no tv is a good thing or not. But the discussion is good and for now, we have a quieter house and lower utility bills both in electricity and no tv payment. That is a good thing. Now if only we could get internet...


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