I grew up without cable. While many people might wonder what on earth we did without TV, I should mention that the good ole' bunny ears meant that we still received a good 10 channels. Sometimes we might have watched our favourite shows through a fuzzy signal, but there were a few channels that were strong. Most of the major network shows aired on the channels we did get.
When I moved out into a basement apartment during university, full cable came with the place. I have to admit that I usually bypassed the lower channels and indulged in programs on the history and arts channels. My television viewing habits changed - I stopped watching television on a schedule (like tuning in for a weekly program) and started dropping in now and then when I needed a mental break.
When I got married, we had basic cable (I moved into James apartment, and he had the cable already). While I was grateful for the distraction for the 18 months of two pregnancies that I spent in bed, I quickly discovered that basic cable is a rip-off. The stuff I really wanted to watch was available via antennae. All the rest was just filler, stuff I would flip on to watch to "relax" or "pass time." None of it I really needed or wanted to watch.
With our move to our first house, we got rid of cable. And then we were hit with a surprise twist: our television downstairs couldn't get any reception, even off the 2 foot bunny ears we bought. It presented our first challenge to our media decision. Should we get cable or leave it? Luckily I was on a "simplify" kick, so it didn't tempt me for long. We put a little TV (previously used as a preview monitor for film editing) in our bedroom and left the TV downstairs for movies only.
Turns out it was the best decision we made. There is absolutely no TV on during the day, because with three kids I can't simply retreat and hideaway in my bedroom to watch something. At night the same principle applies. I've got too much to do around the house to sit up in one room. I never used to watch TV without doing second activity or chore at the same time, and still don't like doing it. The few times when I do flip on a movie, I'm usually folding laundry. The only thing I regularly watch is ten minutes of the nightly news just before going to bed.
Now I would like to thank the broadcast companies for helping me make the last move that we have, as yet, been unable to make. I wanted to get rid of the television completely, but since the analog signal was free, it seemed to not be a big deal to keep the two or three channels we get alive. Next summer the industry is switching to digital cable, which means I would need a digital box monthly subscription to watch TV. No deal. I am not paying for television. I simply don't need it anymore. I'm grateful for our gradual change, so that I don't have to go cold turkey (hmm, that sentence has undertones of an addiction, doesn't it!). Apparently I am one of about 1 million households in Canada that does not subscribe to cable. I wonder how many of us will let it go completely next summer? I imagine there will be a portion who opt to start paying, but I best the vast majority won't. I haven't read any studies on the subject, but I question the statement that most people who don't have cable don't have it because of budgetary reasons. I have heard reports in the past that in low-income areas people will go to the food bank for food but still have a big-screen TV and cable subscription.
So next summer we will get rid of television programming in our home. We will still have our TV and a collection of films. Any TV shows we really want to see we will rent or buy on disc (a much better way to enjoy the show, without the commercials!). I know the next step would be to get rid of the television completely, but as James and I are both filmmakers, I don't think we would ever do that. However a film is a two hour time investment, and certainly we only put in that time once or twice a week. I have loved the extra time I find I have, filling it with reading and quilting and kayaking and board games and music and writing. I hope soon to add composing (it's been too long since I engaged in writing music), finishing the children's book I started, learning more of the guitar, writing more letters, improving my gardening knowledge and skills...there are so many things I want to do and learn and now I have a plethora of time at my fingertips!