Jayne Dawson: Life will never be the same – we’re turning off the telly

The days of everyone watching television are over.
The days of everyone watching television are over.
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Every now and again a silent and seismic change comes along in our society.

After that, we are different, everything is different. We just don’t know it, not at first.

I am prepared to argue, as an example, that the duvet was such a change.

One day we were all pinned, shivering, to beds made tight and heavy with blankets passed down the family and probably originating from a mill in Dewsbury sometime before the First World War.

The next we were all Scandinavian and toasty, lying free and unfettered under clouds of goosedown and feather.

But when and how did it happen? I don’t know, and I haven’t got time to deliberate - because a new silent and seismic change is upon us.

It’s the television.

There was a time - and it was up until, basically, a few months ago - when everyone worked on the assumption that everyone had a television. Then, someone decided to check.

Turns out, and no one is quite sure exactly when this phenomenon started, that a TV turn-off is happening.

In fact, television ownership is at a 43 year low. The last time there were so few homes possessing television sets was back in 1972, a time when there were only three channels and the most popular programmes were Miss World, Steptoe and Son and Love Thy Neighbour .

Now, almost two million households have no television set, most of them young people.

That doesn’t mean they are not watching television. It means that they are watching it on things other than a TV set. And also that, in theory at least, they are recording their viewing rather than watching it live - because to watch live would mean paying the £145 licence fee.

To someone who grew up when television sets ruled, I cannot tell you what a shocking change in society that is. Because back when television dominated - in the 1970s - the set was the heart of the home.

More than that. It was the focus of life.

You know that interior design instruction that every room needs a focal point? Well by the 1970s it had long stopped being the fire. No-one drew their chairs around the fire anymore, instead we were drawn to the flickering warmth of the television set.

In our house, we didn’t really need our parents. They were shadowy figures who went to work, and came back at tea time; shouted a bit, cleaned things, built things.

It didn’t matter. Our real companion was the television. We didn’t hug it, because being tactile wasn’t a thing in 1970s Leeds, but, you know, we would have if we had known how to hug.

So my strongest memory of my sisters in childhood is them laying on their stomachs, eating sweets, in front of the television on Saturday mornings and watching Multi-Coloured Swap Shop with Noel Edmonds. It makes me feel all warm inside whenever I think of it.

And then there was the Shared National Experience.

That unifying bond of everyone watching the same thing at the same time. That happened a lot when all anyone ever did was watch television, and there were only three channels to watch.

A Morecambe and Wise Christmas special, a big episode of Coronation Street, any episode of Top of the Pops - you could guarantee the nation would be watching.

Teenage conversations would revolve around who had been on there.

That’s all teenage conversations. All over the country.

So I really don’t know what is going to happen now. I fear for the consequences. I think television may well have been the glue that held us together. Unite and rule, that was television.

Now we are in for a period of complete fragmentation, there will be no Shared National Experiences, no crowding round the set. I fear isolation will set in.

It could be time to hide under that new-fangled duvet.

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