Why I Want to Trash my TV

There are certain luxuries that seem to have become necessities in the USA. Forty years ago, my mother would hang the laundry out to dry on a clothes line — even during the winter. Today, just about everyone has access to a clothes dryer. Thirty years ago, video games were very basic and had not yet taken a dominant role in childhood entertainment so kids still went outside to play on a daily basis. Twenty years ago, videocassettes were still sufficiently expensive that although we rented, we rarely, if ever, purchased them. Ten years ago, the Internet still had not penetrated into even half of all US households.

Times have changed. Chances are good that if you are reading this, at least in the USA, you use a clothes dryer to dry your laundry, own at least one video game system if you have kids, have at least a small collection of DVDs, and certainly have Internet access. I leave it to you to determine whether these are positive developments or not, but there is one evolution that I do want you to consider. Is the invasive growth of television access in your home a good thing?

When I was growing up in the Boston area, we had PBS (channel 2), NBC (channel 4), ABC (channel 5), CBS (channel 7), a second ABC affiliate from New Hampshire (channel 9), and three local channels (channels 27, 38 and 56). That was it. Indeed, none of the local channels even broadcast continuously and I recall as a very young boy getting up ahead of the rest of my house and watching the National Anthem played to start the broadcasting day. As I got older, I believe that the National Anthem was also played to close out the broadcasting day as well.

Times have changed and now I have a satellite television provider. We receive about 200 channels, most of which we never watch and many of which I don’t believe we can even find. At our peak, we had satellite access in six rooms of our eight rooms, including every bedroom and one bathroom. With all of that access, I believe we watched a collective eight hours of television per week.

About two years ago, I started eliminating satellite boxes and TVs from our house. We now have access in three rooms — the family room, master bedroom and in our younger son’s room. Our younger son does not realize it but his box will be eliminated in the coming couple of weeks. I disconnected his box a month ago to see if he would notice. He has not noticed so I think I can make the decision to disconnect with a minimum of friction.

The battle will then come to pass. I want to eliminate the satellite box from the master bedroom. My wife is a reader. I am a reader. We just do not watch the TV enough to justify having it. Also, with my kids in school all day and my wife and I generally busy, if either of us wants to steal a moment to actually watch something on TV, the family room television is always available.

I am not sure how my wife will perceive my objective. The master bedroom was always a place for us to watch something that we wanted to watch without having to negotiate with our kids. Usually, that negotiation would take place every four years, during a presidential election. My wife loves to watch debates, commentary and political speeches during an election year, but that is really the only time that there has ever been a real desire to control the remote. By the time we get to the next election, neither child is likely to care too much about the TV or even be at home.

It all seems rational to me but only time will tell whether I can persuade my better half. Whether you are considering eliminating television completely or just cutting back on the number of TVs in your home with cable or satellite access, here are five arguments that you need to consider:

Doing is Better than Watching: If you are watching TV, by definition you are not really doing anything. Although there may be educational or cultural programming which can improve your mind, you are not usually accomplishing anything by sitting in front of a TV. Eliminate TV access in your home and start getting more done!

Reading is Better than Watching: Reading stimulates the mind in ways that television never can. Reading will also tire your eyes and help you fall asleep much faster at night than a television. More importantly, reading does not have to cost you anything if you take advantage of your local library.

Cable and Satellite TV Offer Lots of Channels You Do Not Need: If you look at your cable bill, you are probably paying a lot of money for a lot of channels that you never watch. The bundles that cable and satellite providers offer generally force you to accept and pay for channels that offer no value to you. Why pay for channels that you do not need?

Almost Every Program is Available on DVD or On-Line: Rather than pay for daily access to TV programming, wait for your favorite shows to be available on DVD and borrow them from your library. Also, with web networks like Hulu offering current television programming and many of the networks offering current programming on their own sites, the Internet can very quickly replace the TV for your viewing pleasure.

Bring the Family Closer Together: Even if you choose not to eliminate all of your TV sets, cut back on the number of receivers that you lease each month and force your family to come together to watch programming that is of interest to everyone. If you are going to sit on the sofa and watch TV, at least make it a family experience.

What are the reasons that you have for paying or not paying for large cable and satellite packages? How do you approach TV in your home? Do your kids have TV access? Is it limited or restricted? Do you read? What programming makes having TV access essential in your home?

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35 Responses to Why I Want to Trash my TV

  1. Broken Arrow says:

    Sounds great!

  2. Traciatim says:

    I would really like to see “a la carte” cable channel selection. With the advent of digital boxes the technology is there already.

    What would be even better is simply shows on demand. This would be really interesting if you could pay $0.50 for the show ad-free or have 2 ads at the start, and 3 in the middle for free (with a small monthly fee box rental and service fee… like 10 bucks a month or 19.95 or something).

    Hmmm, I think I see a business plan starting.

  3. Shane says:

    Emmm… sounds great !

    I watch very little TV but find I am spending HOURS on the Internet…. so TV time is just being replaced by Internet time…

  4. Annie Jones says:

    We have (and have only ever had) one television in our home, which is in the living room. We don’t subscribe to the idea of having TV in bedrooms.

    We do have cable, but it seems we only watch 4-5 of the the 200+ stations on a regular basis. As it is now, my husband and I watch about 1 hour of TV a day, and that’s usually an episode of a show from a Netflix disc. My granddaughter watches about 2 hours of kids’ programming a day. We get our news and weather from the internet.

    Still, I can’t convince them (hubby or kiddo) to give up the cable. I think I’d be ok with having the TV there for Netflix or Redbox videos and the occasional video game, but cable seems like a huge waste of money when we really don’t use it.

  5. Jean says:

    I live alone and don’t have a TV in my bedroom. When my daughter and her husband come to visit, they don’t seem to understand this. If I want to watch TV, I go in the living room.There’s nobody here to argue with.
    When I’m in the bedroom, I’m either reading or sleeping. Why would I need a TV there?

  6. jb says:

    I don’t really watch much TV. If someone likes TV though I don’t fault them for it. I would rather spend time on the internet and read. I’m not sure those are better just my preference.

  7. Max says:

    Did a post on this on my site … TV subscription is a waste of money.

  8. Lou Russo says:

    I’m not much of a TV watcher for the shows that are on. My wife jokes that if someone held a gun to my head and asked me to name the shows that are on, he’d have to shoot me. That said, I enjoy my cable. I am an inveterate sports watcher; Phillies, flyers, Eagles, Penn State football. I try to watch as many as possible. Without cable, I could see very few. My wife enjoys a number of series type shows, some of them are cable only. Both of us are inveterate readers, and since we are both retired, there is plenty of time for both TV and reading. I can read with the TV on because I get so involved in the words, I really don’t hear the TV. My wife is always in a book, TV or not. Bottom line? I’ll keep my cable.

  9. T says:

    I have cable service with HD-DVR box, but I only watch about 1-4 hours a week on it. Other member of the family watch 3-4+ hours a day.

    Do you have highspeed internet? If so, look at Hulu and TV RSS using Bittorrent software.

  10. Liz says:

    I grew up without TV and never thought to get it when I moved into my own place. We had public channels for a couple of years, but didn’t make the switch to digital. I’ve never felt a lack, I don’t have time to watch TV! When it’s not an option, you find yourself with so many other projects and tasks.

  11. Allison says:

    I think this is a great idea. I’m amused that you disconnected your son’s cable and he doesn’t even know!

    I prefer to read, or *gasp* go outside in my spare time. I’m 27 and find myself wanting to discuss World News Tonight while my friends want to talk about American Idol. In a way, I think we could all do with a little less tv.

    Great post.

  12. Monkey Mama says:

    I am not a huge fan of TV (wasn’t, anyway), BUT my spouse REALLY is.

    He’s really converted me over the years. When the kids were young I really fought them watching much TV, but with time it has proven to expand their horizons, help them learn language, etc. (People all the time comment on their advanced language – ages 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. I am 90% sure a lot of it is due to watching TV. I have done a 180 on my feelings on the TV, with time).

    All in all, it is cheap entertainment. We don’t pay for premium cable, but have plenty of channels (more than we ever would watch). I enjoy reality television to unwind, but with the kids we watch the many wonderful PBS shows, as well as Discover, Science and History channel, etc.

    Everyone in my family is a reader. I can’t stay awake at night to read one page in a book, and that is usually when I watch TV. I don’t find it takes away from my reading time. Nor from my “doing” time. IT’s usually I am sleepy but don’t mind a little entertainment before bed. (I never watch movies, which drives my spouse nuts. Talk about time consuming!!!! But we have had a DVR for about 10 years. We watch what we want and zip through all the commercials. I find the DVR saves a lot of time).

    With netflix, etc., we don’t see the point of subscribing to premium channels.

    TV is mostly a family activity in my house. I refuse to put TVs in the kids’ bedrooms. I do like having a TV in our bedroom – dh like to snuggle in bed and watch shows, sometimes. Really our only “date” time a lot of the time. But I don’t particularly see us as a household that goes off to different TVs to watch our own shows. In fact, we negotiate every night what we will watch together. Which isn’t a bad thing.

  13. kenyantykoon says:

    i didnt know that people still watch television, i agree with you that tv is a mind numbing little hobby that must not be encouraged particularly on the young kids. i dont remember the last time i sat down to watch tv, the few times that i watch something it is normally a movie on my laptop- and it is usually after i have read the book first and the movie adaptation follows. it has really improved my enunciation, concentration and many other areas that tv was killing. tv should be banished to hell.

  14. Reading is a great thing, it’s quiet in the middle of the night too, but I’ll never trash my TV.

    John DeFlumeri Jr, Clearwater, Fla.

  15. baselle says:

    1 TV – no cable, digital converter.

    You forgot to mention the most important reason to trash your TV – the meta aspects. TV forms heightened buying expectations. Since advertising drives most TV, most scripted and many reality shows depict an upper/upper-middle class lifestyle as a matter of course. Makes sense to limit TV watching and expand more the real-life F2F watching.

  16. spicoli says:

    There are not a lot of shows that I like to watch on TV and the shows that I do watch I usually save until they come out on DVD so that I can watch the commentaries that accompany them. If a show is released without a commentary, it is less appealing to me because the process that goes into the creation of a show fascinates me as much the show itself.

  17. persephone says:

    I rarely watch TV other than Law and Order and that is mostly in syndication. I agree with Traciatim that an a la carte option on cable would be great!

  18. Scott A.Epler says:

    If my wife did not love her TV so much ,It would be gone!! The Internet is my Media Source of choice,About a month ago my house got struck by lightning and without a surge protector My Flat Screen TV and DVR Sattlelite Box were Fried instantly, I replaced it Immediately and have not watched the new set since , And I do not miss it one bit. I can choose Just about any subject off the top of my head and research it . you can not do that with a TV. I would love to trash the TV and the Bill that goes with it!!!!!!

  19. sewingirl says:

    I think I could live very happily without TV, but my Hubby would surely Die! We have satellite TV, but also watch the same 20 or so channels all of the time. The ala carte idea would be great for us!

  20. frugaltexan says:

    As of yesterday, I now no longer even own a television. 🙂

  21. Steven says:

    I got rid of my TV in 1996. And I have never missed it.

    I saw this written on a tee shirt and have never forgotten it:

    Theatre is culture
    Film is art
    TV is furniture

  22. Ann says:

    Very timely! LOL

    I’ve recently cut way back on time spent on the computer and intend to do the same with tv.

    I’ve never had cable but somehow managed to fall into the bad habit of spending WAY too much time watching shows at night! I recently came to the conclusion that there’s really only one show I enjoy so much that I want to make sure I watch it… and I actually found out that I can watch it on my computer whenever I want to, if I’m not in front of a tv when it shows!

    There are way too many other ways that I’d rather be spending my time. 🙂

  23. wandaa says:

    Great article David.

    What are the reasons that you have for paying or not paying for large cable and satellite packages?

    -As I stated on your Facebook page if it were up to me there would be no tv in our home at all. But my husband doesn’t require much and the NFL, HGTV, DIY and The Food Network are his absolute favorites. How can I deny him? 😉 lol

    How do you approach TV in your home? Do your kids have TV access?

    No children in the home.

    Is it limited or restricted?

    No need for that.

    Do you read?

    Constantly. I spend way to much time on the internet and always have at least two books I’m reading at any given time. I try to read the articles here daily.

    What programming makes having TV access essential in your home?

    For my husband, see above.
    For me, the news and very few shows.

  24. Wandaa ~ Thanks for a great comment and some excellent questions!

    My kids watch TV but they do not really have a lot of time to do so, especially during the school year.

    My elder son prefers film commentary so he likes to borrow/rent/buy movies and TV series on DVD and then watches the commentaries repeatedly until he undestands the techniques and concepts that drove the making of the film/show.

    My younger son likes to watch sports and cooking shows, but only at the end of the night. He does not sleep a lot so he usually turns on the TV at about 9pm and watches until 10:30 or until he is tired.

    Both boys read a lot and my wife and I read incessantly. We do not restrict them because they regulate themselves pretty well.

    I am also writing book reviews for http://www.ww2f.com and http://www.bibliobuffet.com so I try to read at least a couple of hours each day.

    Essential programming for our house, if there is any, would be all of the ESPN channels, Food Network, the major networks, and probably Discovery, Disney, Nick and Cartoon Network. The only network shows that I watch are Survivor, Amazing Race and Glee. My wife has only one show — Law and Order.

  25. Stina says:

    In the last few years, we’ve cut down to one tv and cut back our dish service to the cheapest (unadvertised) plan. It also happens to be the family-friendly option. Amazingly, all those cuts didn’t really change our tv habits that much. It’s definitely becoming less essential though.

  26. Wicklow wench says:

    I belong to that 1 per cent of the population have no TV!
    We have not had one for over ten years now and do very nicely without it. We do have broadband, and a DVD player – but no connection to either terrestrial or satellite entertainment. Our kids have never known a TV in the house – but are well able to catch up on YouTube with their friends’ current obsessions.
    As a result, we have no subscription bills, a great library, our kids read loads, and we are avid scrabble, crossword and monopoly addicts.

    And after reading through the comments – I realise I suffer very little ‘pester power ‘ from my pre-teen children as they are not seeing ads on a regular basis.

    To be quite honest – I find television very annoying now when I am in other peoples houses….

  27. Yes… things that used to be luxuries are now made out to be necessities. This is due to propaganda, and people are getting rich from it.

    Most people nowadays wouldn’t last 3 seconds in society 30-20 years ago (maybe 10).

    Reading is a beautiful thing. Family time is a beautiful thing.

    Electromagnetic Chaos is not.

    A lot of people would be much healthier and more financially sound if they would return to the ways of the old school.

  28. minny says:

    We have a TV in the living room, but I dearly love to have a TV in the kitchen. I cook from scratch, make bread and do lots or preserving and making. All the chopping and stirring is much easier if the TV is burbling away in the background.

    Never had a TV in the bedroom. My children never did either and now as adults they don’t. If someone is ill and in bed then it’s different and the kitchen TV gets put in there. If it is not me ill, I then chop, peel and stir to the radio!

  29. Gail says:

    I’ve actually found that as I have limited my TV viewing (we only have access to videos and DVDs, no cable or antennae, etc)I’m not get one thing done. I’m not getting my hand stitching done. I used to do a lot of it while watching TV but without the TV to watching, I’m reading more or going off to the sewing room to actually sew. I’ve just never liked to do hand embroidery, etc. in a room without something on TV.

  30. Pingback: Is the Computer the New TV? - SavingAdvice.com Blog

  31. Cindy M says:

    Excellent column. As someone who has worked from home on the internet 8 hours a day and then some for the past 15 years, I can’t tell you much I look forward to retirement just to get away the keyboard/monitor. When not working, I do anything BUT sit in front of any screen these days and have lately seriously thought about getting another job outside my home. I’ll be moving to cheaper housing (selling my home) and could swing going back to school, though I’m not what to get into. I do a lot of walking and have noticed how little activity I see in the neighborhoods; nobody seems to go outdoors even on nicer days. (That’s another topic, think about how it would be with no AC like back in the day, ha-ha, folks might actually come outdoors again. But no, I’d not want to give up air conditioning completely just yet). I did find it easy to get rid of cable and rediscovered reading. Anyway, how can it not be healthier mentally and physically to get up and move around whenever you can no matter what your age?

  32. Matthew says:

    I work in an IT related field. That being said, I watch international television programming on my computer; however, given the option of watching it on my larger LCD television, I would switch in an instant. As for people who enjoy A la carte programming, I think I prefer television as an entertainment medium as it limits the scope from which I must choose what to watch. This makes for easier decision making for me. Plus it adds a novelty factor that allows me to, with very little effort, find new programming that I might enjoy. The internet alternative for finding new programming is… well, I suppose I haven’t yet found a good substitute.

  33. SUJITH says:

    i and my wife are opposer for having tv which in one way destroys relationship which improves with regular talking among the family members which has become a rarity now

  34. Bajaraja says:

    After moving out of my parent’s house I don’t have a television or a cable or satellite subscription. I wouldn’t use or care for one either.
    I’m usually at Uni, at my job, working on a project for a client, talking/hanging out with friends online and offline, playing video games (but not too much), reading books (anything that I find interesting), reading research/white papers (again, anything that interests me), programming/designing/building/development DIY projects, and starting up my server hosting business, which has taken off quite successfully.

    Basically, thanks to no TV, I can do anything I want. People say TV rots your brain, and it’s true! Your intelligence lessens and you become sedentary and complacent. You lose that energy, that charisma. Books offer a wealth of information that I believe anyone could benefit from.
    Just do whatever you feel interested in. I recently took up guitar lessons and I LOVE IT!

    If there’s ever anything that I really want to watch I just download it from sharing sites or more likely, stream it from sites like Netflix and Hulu. It’s awesome!

    I think I’ll take up video game development and independent film making as hobbies next. I mean, come on! Life is too short as it is; why waste it watching brain numbing crap?

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