Your choice of TV

Some time ago I spent most of a year in the UK and it’s a time I’ll never forget for a number of reasons.

One of the most pleasant things that stick in my memory is my first exposure to the BBC’s domestic television and radio services. I was continually amazed how much better the BBC was than the SABC service I was used to.

I came back to South Africa willingly enough but one thing that I have really enjoyed is being able to listen to listen to BBC radio programmes over the Internet. All you need do is go to www.bbc.co.uk/radio and click on the channel you want to listen to.

You can listen to any of the channels live and, in addition, most shows are archived temporarily, so you can go back and listen any you’ve missed. A current highlight on Radio 2 is my favourite, Rockin With Suzie Q, which will be a delight to any rock fan.

Comedy is very strongly represented and you can usually find a Goon Show to listen to, or a repeat of the long-running panel game I’m sorry I haven’t a clue. The latter may be the funniest programme I’ve ever heard on radio but there is much, much more, if that isn’t to your taste.

In an exciting development, the BBC announced that it has started a beta program broadcasting its television shows via the Internet. The service is only available in the UK at present and, from what I read in some publications, it is far from generally available there.

Users will have to download and install the BBC iPlayer and will then be able to download and view BBC shows. The program will allow users to download shows and view them as often as they like for seven days after the first viewing, or delete them after 30 days, if not viewed.

Shows available will include everything that the BBC has rights to broadcast and will probably eventually include archives of old shows. The service will launch later this year and the company apparently aims to have more than 80% of all its current shows online by 2010.

It is possible to listen to the radio over a dial-up connection but you’ll probably wish you had broadband. I can’t imagine that it would be possible to view BBC television over the Internet without broadband or, bearing in mind where we live and how much bandwidth costs, whether it would be possible to watch much with it.

People have been predicting for a long time that users will be able to choose what they want to watch rather than being at the mercy of some palooka who thinks they should see the Weakest Link every day. I reckon that time is coming sooner rather than later but the key to it all, for South Africans, will be affording the bandwidth.

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