Tuesday, July 21, 2009

75 years is a longer time than you might think

Things that happened in 1934:
- Alcatraz becomes a prison
- Flash Gordon is first published as a comic strip
- Germany signs a 10-year non-aggression pact with Poland
- Bonnie and Clyde kill two highway patrolmen in Texas a month before they're killed in a shoot-out (seriously)
- Dionne quints are born
- Hitler becomes the Führer of Germany
- The Chinese Long March begins
- Persia becomes Iran
- Jean Chrétien, Hank Aaron and Ralph Nader are born

OH - and 1934 was the last (and first) time England won an Ashes test at Lord's Cricket Ground, the official home of cricket (yes, this sentence is what that string of random events was leading up to).

Enter 2009 - the second time in the history of the Ashes (a history that began in 1882) that England managed to beat Australia at Lord's.

How I would love to tell you about the drama of the event, the edge-of-your-seat cricket taking place as the Aussies edged ever closer to beating the seemingly impossible-to-match target score set by the English. How I would love to tell you of the relief that washed Graeme Swann's face as he bowled out the last Australian. How I would love to tell you the fantastic story of Andrew Flintoff, playing in his last 5-day series, taking five Australian wickets in his last Ashes Test at Lord's. How I would love to tell you about the simple glory in England winning at Lord's. Unfortunately, I can't. I didn't get to watch it.

You see, the BBC, who has aired The Ashes for at least the past decade, decided not to pick it up this year, letting it go instead to SkySports. Now, you're probably saying, "Amrit, I didn't want to read an article about cricket, but I am anyways because there's nothing else to read. Now you're subjecting me to another TV rant? Why do you keep doing this to me? Also, can I have your autograph?"

Well, reader, yes, you can have my autograph. But this is actually important, because it proves that my theory works, and could work in the UK too! Hurrah! Assuming you were too lazy to read through the hyperlinked article, I suggested that the CBC become an opt-outable tax (yes, I am a Queen's student, I love things that are opt-outable) for having programming that lots of watchers weren't remotely interested in (oh, they're dropping The Simpsons now as well).

Now, in the UK, in order to operate your TV, you have to pay an annual £142.50 (approx. $280) TV licensing fee, which is used to fund the BBC. For that, the BBC offers commercial-free programming which is supposed to strike the fancy of all its veiwers, while maintaining strong cultural identity in what it shows. And is there anything more British than (a) cricket and (b) competition with the Australians? I mean really, the British define themselves by sport and sporting accomplisments, and getting one over the Australians is about the only thing that could make a gentryman crack a smile (even for a second).

So while the most exciting test in the past 75 years of Ashes cricket was happening at Lord's... I was either watching The Open or any array of home makeover shows (they're interesting, don't hate). Meanwhile, that most interesting of cricket matches was happening on SkySports, a cable channel which costs anywhere from £16.50/month to £35.50/month.

And thus, the BBC has put British TV-watchers (sports fans specifically) in much the same situation as the CBC for Canadians. You pay taxes for TV you don't want to watch, while you pay extra to get the cable channels to watch the TV you do want to watch. I pray you governments, let people opt out! Let people choose to watch what they want to watch! Don't hold us subject to the whims of stuffed shirts sitting in their ivory tower of television! We beg of you a system of television which reflects the wishes of the people! (Okay, I might be getting a little too dramatic here). But seriously, that £16.50/month for SkySports (£198/year) wouldn't be so daunting if the TV license wasn't being forced on people. Allow people to opt out of the BBC, allow people to opt out of the CBC, and I can promise you a vast improvement in the quality and type of programming that would be on offer. And no more crap like Little Mosque on the Prairie.

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