TV times are a changing

It used to be said that British TV was the best in the world. It’s highly doubtful whether that is true of our sitcoms these days, but at least our TV technology is still flying the flag.

As The Engineer reported this week Pace, the Yorkshire-based set-top box developer, is forging ahead thanks to demand for digital services around the world and the growing popularity of HD television.

HD might look great but a quick glance at the R&D underway at Pace, or any other big player in the broadcast technology arena, tells you that it’s just the start of a coming revolution in the way we watch the box.

The buzzword in the industry is convergence, meaning the ability of different types of devices to deliver the sort of programme content that traditionally came via the aerial on the roof.

Many of us are already getting used to watching ‘television’ on our computers via services such as the BBC’s iPlayer. Meanwhile, high-end TV sets are able to offer web surfing comparable to a PC.

So when is a computer a TV and a TV a computer? The answer is that it will become increasingly hard to tell. What isn’t in doubt is the determination of both the broadcast and computing industries that there will be no hiding place. In every room, on every type of device, fixed or mobile, even in the car, The Bill will follow you ­– if you want it to.

And there’s the rub for the television of the future. Surveys show that TV, in the form familiar to those of us over 30, is a major turn-off for the younger generation, who prefer to spend their leisure time online.

As for the rest of the population, there’s only so much time in the day you can be glued to a screen of whatever variety. And there’s the little matter of how to pay for it all (the bill for The Bill, if you like). With advertising hard to come by and even the licence fee-funded BBC under pressure, even while technology relentlessly expands the option of how and where you can view, one question is likely to stand the test of time ­– is there anything on worth watching?

Andrew Lee, Editor