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The Bold Switch-Off
by Asa Butcher
2007-09-01 09:23:10
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Despite the growls of dissent and howls of outrage from Thanos, Finland turned off its five analogue transmission networks early this morning leaving homes without a digital receiver, a set-top box, or an integrated digital television unable to watch any of the country's channels.

Personally I think that this is a bold move by Finland to actually keep to a stated deadline, even though 220,000 homes dependent on over-the-air broadcasts have not yet purchased digital set top boxes. It is bold of Finland to say, "Tough luck! You should have organised yourself sooner!" and it is bold of the Finnish government to assume that everybody can afford one of the 90e minimum cost for a digital receiver. Bold.

Electronics stores, digital receiver manufacturers and Digita, the company responsible for Finland's broadcasting network (owned by the French company Télédiffusion de France, by the way) are selflessly advancing the technological situation of the country and are warmly inviting us to join this broadcast revolution with an open hand. I'm sure the only profit that anybody will see is the number of new channels promised by the networks.

These channels include the Discovery Channel, Eurosport, the KinoTV movie channel, the documentary channel MTV3 Fakta, Music Television MTV, Nickelodeon and the Swedish SVT Europa, a selection so exciting that my shaking clammy hand will barely be able to keep a firm grip on the remote control, well, remote controls, since the digibox comes with another remote for your household. What's the collective noun for a group of remote controls?

Will the arrival of digital TV mean that the Finnish licence fee will drop for the first time ever? I expect not. Will the arrival of digital TV mean that the country receives better programming? I expect not. Will the arrival of digital TV mean that channels won't be broadcasting the expensive text games all morning? I expect not. Will the arrival of digital TV mean anything different to our lives? Hmmm…

When Paavo Lipponen's government decided in principle to take Finland on its digital journey in May 1996, there was some suspicion as to why, especially when you consider that Nokia were making digital receivers at the time. However, today Nokia no longer produces digiboxes, focusing instead on mobile phones that allow you to watch TV on the screens, which has raised a delightful debate concerning the TV licence.

Now anything with a screen can receive broadcast images, which raises the question of whether a TV licence is feasible or justifiable. I'm of the opinion that they weren't before digital TV and this hasn't changed since because financially unfair – every household has to pay the same amount even though the earning capacity and quantity of residents can vary immensely. The commercial channels pay for themselves through advertising, so why can't YLE dabble a bit too?

My final question is simply: do children and adults really need more reasons to weald their arses to the sofa? It was recently announced that obesity in Finnish children and adolescents aged less than 18 years has increased, with 10–20% of school age children overweight. Therefore, do we now need a digital carrot tempting them to waste precious time burning their retinas, rather than calories?

All this Chicken Little rhetoric about the sky is falling is too little, too late. Digital television has arrived. What else can we do other than go to see what's on? Click…

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JG2007-09-03 22:50:29
Interesting. I agree with Thanos to an extent.
It's even more annoying for us in the Swedish speaking minority, as we are now expected to pay extra to receive SVT Europa. Previously this was free and sent via terrestrial analogue in Swedish-speaking areas. I thought there was an agreement between the Nordic countries to make each other's tv/radio accessible easily.

Stormy2008-11-20 01:56:52
Not willing to participate in such a heinous crime

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