Navigating the Digital Media Maze: Making Sense of TV, Internet, and Streaming Options…

David Jamison is writing about those items that catch his attention now looking through an older person’s eyes.  He lives in Belfast and since retiring recently he is trying to make sense of a fast-changing world and trying his best to keep up!

I was wondering what to title this piece, and interestingly, the dictionary defines “Media” as “the main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the internet) regarded collectively.”

As a reality check, can I say at the outset that I mention several products and services as examples throughout, primarily because these are the ones I have used. There are many more similar products out there.

Therefore, I’m casually lumping all the following in under the heading of Media

Newspapers and their Digital counterparts

Radio

Television

Podcasts

Social Media (To include Facebook, Twitter now X, Instagram, LinkedIn (possibly) Nextdoor (Possibly)

Streaming services (e.g. Spotify for Music and YouTube for Video, Amazon Prime)

Books (Audible, Kindle)

Back in the day, which really goes back to around the late 1960’s early 1970’s there were Newspapers, made of paper, Books were either Hardback or Paperback and came from a bookstore or lending library. Television was BBC and ITV, (BBC) Radio had transitioned to become Radio 1 2, 3 & 4 and with the exception of a few pirate stations like Luxembourg which ran from a ship in the middle of the North Sea, nothing commercial. The Internet was yet to be born.

Digital advances have led to many changes both in quality and quantity to each of the already existing services mentioned – too many, in fact, to detail in a short article, and all at an increasing velocity.

What has my attention now is trying to figure out television and associated Internet providers. As with Banking, which I discussed recently, I feel that services have advanced at a greater pace than consumers are able to manage. The marketplace has become a minefield of competing offers, which change frequently, and without giving some attention to this, consumers can be left on high tariffs for long periods of time. But then who really wants to spend their day monitoring internet and TV package prices? This is similar to leaving savings in low interest bearing Accounts as new deals come and go in the marketplace. There is no onus on Providers to advise customers of better deals.

Not that long ago, the two major providers, Sky and Virgin, had their internet and TV packages bundled together to the effect that if I wanted Virgin TV, for example, I had to have Virgin Internet and, if my memory serves, Virgin Landline as well. While this broadly remains, Amazon came along with the Fire Stick and it has became possible to stream most everything via a little “stick” which connects to the internet, doing away with the need for satellite dishes or Television Aerials. I’d go as far as to say that I personally use the Firestick for 90% of everything I watch and of that a fairly high proportion is from YouTube – another new kid on the block! Then because I have Amazon Prime I have access to Prime Video but care is necessary as this can then lead into various subscription services. What can happen is that as an example I wanted to watch Emilia Fox in Seniora Volpe which was advertised on Acorn TV (which I think is a subscription part of Amazon) but just in time I found it on UKTV Play, where is was free.

YouTube video

I am now pondering on whether it would be an idea to put in a bigger Internet Broadband pipe and then move over totally to the Firestick, or is this putting all my eggs in the one basket? Can’t get Freeview as the house is in a signal blackspot,

Overall I’m wondering if it is now time to see internet provision as a utility as much as Gas, Water and Electricity and bring some regulation to the market. The objective would be to provide cost-effective basic internet to the home. I see new houses being marketed now as having internet provision and house management systems like Hive installed from the get go. This probably isn’t that complex now as I’ve been running everything, Firestick included, via wireless for some time now without any issues. Though I would hasten to add there is usually only one thing running at a time because there are no kids in the house!! A quick Google tells me there are building regs in England and Wales as follows. (I don’t immediately see the same under a NI heading) “The (new) requirements are designed to ensure that during construction, new homes are installed with the fastest broadband connections available within a cost cap. Even where a gigabit-capable connection is not possible within this cost cap, the new homes will be future-proofed with physical infrastructure to support gigabit-capable connections when they become available.” This is interesting because I think Sky only supply up to 150Mb/s but Virgin seem to go to 1130Mb/s.

Once getting past the “first fix” of internet provision, which I am thinking is the same as the landline provision which is to the first box in the house, the task then becomes deciding what to hang off it in terms of hardware and applications. I would also like to have streaming devices to give me video and audio in various rooms rather than have seperate radios etc. Maybe Amazon Fire TV Cube might be an answer but again there are a number of options available.

Yet another dimension to this all are hidden, or perhaps more diplomatically, additional charges. Firstly the Television licence fee which is going up to £169.50 next year. The licence is, by today’s standard, an old-fashioned way of funding the state broadcasting service, which its self predated the commercial Independent TV, which is funded by advertising which in turn remains a major revenue source in the Digital space. This is based on having the apparatus to use an antiquated word not for buying a service. Sky have now written to me saying the warranty on my Sky box has expired and they are quoting £9 monthly (£108 a year) for insurance. Then, if I want to subscribe to services such as YouTube, Spotify, Audible, Daily Newspaper, any vLog (usually on YouTube), or Podcast via Patreon, this can rapidly run up to quite a bill.

In the end, we, the consumers, seem to be at the sharp and paying end of the Digital rush, and I do wonder if we are really getting value for money or even the service that we are, in the end, paying for.


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