Thursday, January 13, 2005

Dead in a ditch

One of the things that always makes my American friends fall about laughing is when I tell them that in this country, in order to watch TV, you need a license.

No, really. You do.

It costs about £120 a year, which is about $225 at today's exchange rate. This is mandatory. As in Not. Optional. If you own a TV, it is a criminal offence- yes, a crime, punishable by £1000 fine, not to have a license. And enforcement is taken seriously. If you have no license, the TV licensing authority actually send out special "detector vans" full of high tech NASA equipment, SWAT teams and sniffer dogs to scan your house to see if you are receiving airwaves- or maybe microwaving a pizza, who knows.

OK, so the vans are a bit of a joke, but they can also send out special TV inspectors to search your house. Even if you tell them you don't own a TV, they will think that you do, because TV is obviously as essential to daily life as say, a Starbucks grande latte and mini iPod. What right minded person would be without it? I mean, if you have no TV, you might miss an episode of Eastenders- heaven forfend!

And what does the license fee pay for, I hear you ask? One answer- the BBC.

Don't get me wrong, in many ways the BBC is a fine institution, with some quality programming shown without ad breaks. Do I want to pay £120 year to fund it? Um, no- I'd rather watch the ads, if that's what it takes. Ad breaks are good for dealing with those little mini chores, like making cups of tea and picking the lint off the sofa.

And the thing is- if you watch any other channel other than the BBC (which you can, if you paid your fee and are allowed to own a telly)- you have to watch the ads anyway. A lot of people feel quite vehement about the license thing, and there have been some test cases challenging it on human rights grounds. But with £3 billion of revenue at stake, the BBC is not inclined to give in very easily.

Still, it all becomes even more galling when you see some of the things on which the BBC spend the money. For example, the show I saw last night. I would say that words fail me, but then that would make the rest of this post very short, wouldn't it? So I will soldier on, and tell you that it was a programme about Trying to Conceive. Whoo hoo, my very favourite topic. The presenter was cast as a down-to-earth doctor, who seemed keen to demonstrate how very comfortable he was talking about SEX, which is how babies get made, dontcha know.

Oh, and they threw in a story about an infertile couple for good measure. They couldn't conceive! After months of trying! And so they had to do this thing called I-V-F. Where they give you some drugs (cue picture of some stacks of drugs), take out some eggs (cue shot of petri dish), fertilize the eggs (cue lab technician trying not to sneeze all over petri dish) and stick them back in the woman (cue shot of her sitting there looking a bit bewildered and tense).

Then comes the two week wait. Now remember, nooooo testing until the two weeks are up! (Cue shot of woman going into drugstore to buy test, then cut to her wandering into the bathroom to pick it up, longingly.) Never mind that almost every woman I know would be peeing on anything that comes within 10 yards of her person by that point. And hey presto! A Positive!

Cut to shot of woman relaying the result, evincing a show of enthusiasm equivalent to that usually displayed by inert objects, such wheels of Gouda cheese, or shoelaces.

But wait! It gets better! Cue shot of dildo cam (OK, it was kind of interesting to see that portrayed on TV), and guess what! Twins! Oh, the joy, the joy times two.

Having dispatched the infertile couple with such expediency left plenty of time for dispensing of crap, anedoctal evidence and advice. Sing it with me now- Go on holllliday, just rellllax. Cut to shot of hotel someplace sunny, interspersed with graphics of stress hormones swirling around the body.

But the last part absolutely took the biscuit. Apparently, working as a checkout girl at the supermarket chain ASDA can make you more fertile. Certain checkouts in different stores all over the country have a guaranteed pregnancy rate- one shop alone reported 50 births resulting from clerks sitting at one particular till station. Cut to shot of woman holding young son in said store. She was infertile! For 10 years! Until she took over checkout 15, and lo! Knocked up.

The explanation for this? Well, many years ago, before they paved paradise and put up a parking lot, a pregnant woman fell into a ditch and died in that very spot. So now anyone that sits there gets pregnant. Wow. Just imagine if she'd been suffering from something else, like constipation.

The programme ended with a reminder that really, the key to getting pregnant was to have lots of sex. Oh, and eat lots of fruit. And relax. And go sit in a spot where a pregnant woman has died in a ditch.

My license fee at work.....


At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I enjoy your comments on "socialized" activities in Europe (i.e. comments on National Health Care & TV). I'm a liberal with socialist leanings, and I disagree with you that I wouldn't want to pay for a television license. But, american liberals often talk about benefits europeans have (like national health care) without talking about the costs of those things, and find your comments useful and refreshing.


BTW, they at least told you where checkout 15 was, right?

At 11:00 PM, Blogger DeadBug said...

Oh, no, no, they didn't. They seriously used the "go on vacation" and "just relax" super-asinine assvice? A DOCTOR used this assvice? Oh, brother. No wonder we need the IF blogworld so badly, just to counteract that kind of misleading and condescending shit. Oooo, this makes me so mad, I want to spit like a llama.


At 12:11 AM, Blogger Soper said...

I'm beginning to see the point about the Human Rights violation... *shudder*...somebody call the UN....

At 12:14 AM, Blogger Lala said...

The BBC is so good at comedy, aren't they. That's what you were watching right?

At 1:02 AM, Blogger E. said...

Good Lord, Mare, that pisses me off and I'm not even paying for it. My opinion of the Beeb just went down a few notches. Consider my hide chapped.

At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beaver Girl said...
What about The Office? Do I owe someone money for watching it? Good to know that the BBC can sometimes be as stupid as media in the U.S.

At 2:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Screw them, they don't get a red cent from me -- I own the complete Fawlty Towers on DVD -- HA!

I got a taste of BBC when I visited London last year. What?! I would exclaim? No Lifetime Channel? No crappy movies? Just endless episodes of the Simpsons and channels in German? Pfft, I was outta there ;)


At 4:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh God, I watched that infuriating bullshit too! (Australia) Wasn't it torture? What about the woman who simply must produce a son after two perfect daughters? She followed a Boy pregnant....and had a boy.
How's that for a smack in the head.
If I was anywhere near Cashier 15...I think I may strangle her.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger ankaisa said...

Yep, paying to watch tv here, too. And we have those inspectors. The company I'm funding is called YLE. And I prefer to watch the channels with commercials, too.

I'm just hoping that the "document" never gets shown here... Or I might be tempted to throw someone to a ditch!

At 9:12 AM, Blogger TofuSal said...

Thank God we were playing Scrabble instead of watching telly last night.... I would have put my foot through the box. And if I'd seen it after losing at Scrabble? The police may have had to be summoned - not that I'm competitive or anything....

Been meaning to unlurk for ages after reading from the beginning - got everything crossed for you (except my legs, obviously.)

Sara in London xxx

At 1:53 PM, Blogger Toni said...

We pretty much have to pay to get TV here too...I think we pay something like $90 a month (not sure what that exchange rate is for you) for DirectTV. Otherwise we just get three very fuzzy channels.

But that wonder people give us that assvice...this is what they learn. Ugh.

At 11:50 PM, Blogger sweetisu said...


That supermarket and ditch bit, are jokes. Right?

Righty on. Have lots of sex. And relax while having it.


At 11:50 PM, Blogger sweetisu said...


That supermarket and ditch bit, are jokes. Right?

Righty on. Have lots of sex. And relax while having it.


At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TV licensing authority and detector vans, eh? Orwell comes to mind...

And I wonder what checkout 1-14 can guarantee.....maybe eternal youth or alien abductions or dinner with Elvis...???


At 3:41 AM, Blogger Heather said...

Ok. Did the show happen to mention the, oh, say, $12-$15,000 that IVF procedure probably set the happy infertile couple back? I'm assuming it did not discuss the 70% or so of IVF patients for whom the procedure does NOT work on any given attempt.

And as for the ditch . . . I've fallen in more than my share, and it certainly didn't help me get pregnant. Then again, I guess nobody had ever died in any of those particular ditches.

At 12:10 PM, Blogger HomeFireBlue said...

See, this is why I don't watch telly. At all. Ever.

Fuck it. There's not been anything good on here in the states since Duchovney left X-Files.



Post a Comment

<< Home