This item was written on 31 August 2017
In the last few days, I have read that many viewers are complaining about the length of the commercial breaks in Channel 4’s Bake Off. This doesn’t affect me because I have never watched any ‘cooking’ programme on any channel since Delia Smith retired quite a long time ago. However, that subject has prompted today’s afterthought.
I am ad-averse: I don’t watch, or pay attention to, any commercials on TV – and I never have done from the very first day ITV took to the air. All my TV viewing since I retired in 2001, apart from live news and sport, is from recordings, but that does not mean that I have to wait until the programme has finished before I can start watching. When I have been in UK, I have watched Countdown from its very first edition on Channel 4 back in 1982. I still watch almost every programme, but nowadays from recordings. I start watching as soon as Nick Hewer appears. I fast forward over the three ad breaks and by the time the final programme segment is reached, the recording has caught up with the live transmission. (Countdown’s main sponsor need not worry about the loss of a potential customer because I bought several of their excellent gardening products, not on the basis of their ads on Countdown, but because of my family’s recommendations.)
I have not watched anything on ITV, not even the national news, for as long as I can remember - they simply do not have programmes that interest me - that's not a criticism: it is my personal preference. (ITV was not available in the north of England until May 1956 when Granada started transmitting.) I have just watched ITV’s pre-launch black and white video from September 1955 (search for it using your favourite search engine) when the new station promised fortnightly concerts presented by Sir John Barbirolli and the Hallé Orchestra and a series by John Clements called “World Classic Dramas” – I would certainly have watched those had I not been serving overseas with the RAF at that time.
I do not watch recorded news. To be pedantic, recorded news is no longer news! For what it’s worth, I marginally prefer Sky News to the BBC news channel (although I do not like the huge square table Sky presenters and guests have been sitting around recently – it sort of suggests they may all have BO!) but as soon as I hear the words “After the break. . .” I instantly switch to BBC News – but then frequently forget to go back to Sky. That's more a case of senior forgetfulness rather the programme content. I don’t recall ever watching news programmes on any other UK TV channel.
I have ignored advertisements in newspapers and magazines for so many years that I no longer even notice them. Each time the Daily Telegraph (which has been my favourite daily since 1956) moves its back page crosswords to make room for a full-page ad, I decide to stop getting the DT but then I realise that would be a futile gesture. Yes, I know the print media need income from advertisements - but that's their problem. I still buy newspapers but I don’t look at the adverts.
I make a concession for some on-line adverts. I use several free apps and programmes to manage my on-line life. My way of rewarding the owners of the free software I like, trust and find especially useful, is to make a voluntary donation direct to them, or I click on several of the adverts on the assumption that the advertiser pays for the number of click-throughs they get.
I can sense many of my readers grumbling that, “It’s all right for him – he gets a free TV licence as well as free bus travel and other pensioners’ benefits.” True, but I didn’t ask for them and there seems to be no way to turn them down. On the rare occasions when I use buses, I usually pay the fare instead of using my Bus Pass – but that’s a pretty futile gesture! I do regularly contribute, anonymously, to local and national charities of my choice but I never respond to unsolicited on-line pleas and, in particular, I immediately switch to another TV channel when a charity shows distressing images of young children or cute animals.