News Junkie Goes Cold Turkey

The other day my normally calm, levelheaded, non-confrontational wife began ranting about how everything on TV was crap and it was just a huge waste of time and money. It was hilarious. I am still mimicking her relentlessly about it … “everything on the radio is crap” … “everything in the newspaper is crap” … “everything on the internet is crap”… I could go on and on … oh yeah, I do.

And so began our odyssey to live like people envision us living, little house on the prairie style, without satellite TV. I’m sure at some point I had the dream of going back to the land, growing a pony tail, wearing Birkenstock sandals, growing food, entertaining myself with my guitar … and writing poetry. I’m halfway there, minus the ponytail and poetry writing. Oh, and my guitar broke. But I do grow food.

Except for a period of time when our daughters were young and we wanted to encourage them to do anything else but watch TV, we have always had that signal beaming into our home, creating that blue glow in the living room and we zoned out like the rest of the developed world. If it’s any conciliation we had cut back to the absolute most basic satellite TV package, but it was still almost $50/month. And even thought it seemed to offer hundreds of channels the same shows were repeated … in low def, in high def, and then in high def in another channel range. Half the time the Canadian channels just rebroadcast what the U.S. networks are airing, so at any given time you have the same show on 14 channels. Now that’s good value.

So it really comes down to PBS and the news. We are kind of into a groove watching the 6 o’clock news. It’s our comfort zone … although with what’s happening in the world on any given day … what did John Lennon say? “I heard the news today, oh boy…” Since I participate in the political process I feel it’s worthwhile to stay up on what’s happening in the big wide world, but as Michelle points out, yelling at the morons and imbeciles on the TV is kind of huge waste of time and energy, because, get this, they can not hear me! Drats! Who knew?

This was also somewhat prompted by my mindset of late winter, which leaned somewhat to the melancholy side. I’m sure a lot of it was caused by our brutally cold February. We were still having cold weather alerts in Toronto the last week of March. And the world doesn’t seem to be making as much progress on capping carbon emissions so that can be frustrating. I’ve also chosen to remain friends on Facebook with Paul Beckwith, a climate scientist from the University of Ottawa who constantly posts terrifying things, but I have turned his notifications off in my news feed. While I believe I need this information to try and motivate people in a political forum, too much of it can be ‘counter-productive’ to the cause.

And with that, we are now free of the “plug-in drug” of TV and have $600 a year to spend on flights around the world, or DVD rentals from Tamworth Village Video. I haven’t flown in decades but I’m presuming $600 flies you around the world, several times at least. (For our new readers, rest assured that I do not fly. I am being sarcastic.)

When Michelle called to cancel our satellite TV, the person on the line commented on how long we’d been satellite TV customers. I’m not necessarily proud of that. We were paid up for a week or two but I wanted it to stop immediately. As long as the darn newscasts were on, I couldn’t stop watching them. I’d made the commitment and I didn’t even want to know that it was available if I fell off the wagon. But the weird thing was that the satellite feed didn’t get turned off right away. We continued to watch the news the next night and then the next. Then on Sunday night, at 7:10 pm they cut us off. Really, 7:10 pm. Not midnight. Not on the day 10 days in the future we were paid up to, they just arbitrarily picked Sunday night. It was like they have a crew of geeks who sit around and say, “Yea, this is an obnoxious time, let’s do it now… he he he!” It doesn’t exactly inspire loyalty, but hey, we just cancelled our contract, so what did I expect.

I am full time in the garden now. The CSA memberships are rolling in. We’ve had some days above the seasonal norm, so I’ve been working in a t-shirt. The chickens are clucking with joy and anxious to get out and roam, and so we let them out at around 11 a.m. after they have finished laying. They sprint from leaf pile to manure pile scratching and reveling in the exposed earth. So my mood along with the ladies has been lightening by the day.

When we aren’t in town to rent videos we’re tracking down some new shows to watch on Netflix. And since there are no commercials I don’t get those stares from across the room when I channel surf during commercials … not that that ever happened before. I’m just saying, IF I did that I might have gotten those looks.

I can’t even say I’m going to miss Brian Williams, since he’s taking a holiday from the news along with us. I’m not sure we’ll be back when he’s back. But season 6 of Downton Abbey, which should be on PBS next January, that’s a different story. I’m not sure Michelle will be able to miss that. Oh well, for people who don’t travel, a little adventure can be exciting!

13 Responses to “News Junkie Goes Cold Turkey”

  • Robert Hammond:

    With the money you save in the first 6 months you could buy a tower and antenna. There is a fair chance that you could pick up PBS out of Watertown or CBC out of Ottawa. This would get you PBS and CBC which isn’t as ‘fair and balanced’ as another network but it will do nicely for news.
    Either that or use the money to sign up for a VPN service so it looks like your computer is in the U.S. so you can watch the news hour on the PBS website.

  • j:

    I agree, tv service is a total waste these days.

    OTA is viable in major cities, and being digital, the quality is good. Antennas are less than $100 and can be easily installed.

  • Murial:

    I agree with you Michelle and haven’t watched TV for a few years. However when I moved to Gabriola I decided to have a landline installed as there was no cellphone reception. Shaw offered me a TV package with the landline. At the time I was in bed with flu and thought to try it. After 2 days I phoned them to cancel it because as you say it is just crap.

    I see all the news headlines on Facebook and if I want to know more I can watch it online. I watch Downtown Abbey and many other films and shows on

    Felix studied Media and Communication and told me that there were 8 News networks before. Now there are only 4 and that is the reason you see the same news repeated over and over again. He said TV is on the way out. They do not have money anymore and that is also the reason you see so many commercials and reruns of old shows like Seinfeld, etc. They cannot afford to buy new shows.

    I used to watch shows through my TV screen via computer cable but now Living on Lamma I do not even have a TV screen. Here we have movie nights and quizzes and i read more.

    Hans says he wonders how many people can honestly say they enjoy TV now.

  • A. Marie:

    We pulled the plug on Time Warner cable TV about six months ago, after having had the rock-bottom basic package for a couple of years before that. Now it’s just us and the Internet, and we don’t miss TV a bit. (And I try to limit my Internet news time.)

    As for Downton Abbey, I jumped ship when things started getting silly in the middle of Season 2!

  • Good for you guys. We have been without “TV” for about three years now and really, I agree with Michelle, there is nothing on but crap. We use the money we would have paid to satellite tv to either purchase dvd’s of shows we love (like Downton Abbey) or we rent them. Hubby is thinking of putting up a tv tower. His dad has had a tower for as long as they have had tv and never paid for cable or satellite. We have no idea how many channels we would get here (hour west of Ottawa) but it is worth a try. Hubby does miss tv much more than I do. And after all, with the warmer weather here, who has time to watch tv. After I am finished in the garden for the day I am exhausted and go to bed early. Cheers.

  • Catherine:

    Good for you, Michelle! It’s just too darned expensive to pay for the many channels which don’t carry your interest. My HD box went Pfft! several years ago and it was hard to adjust to not watching the Food Network and NatGeo. But when the FN disowned Paula Deen, I disowned them for their lack of loyalty to someone who helped make them what they are. But, that’s a rant for another day. I discovered that many tv programs can be seen online, and even if it is a day later–who cares! There are only 5 that are on weekly which I really like; and I have created a shortcut for Downton Abbey and two other shows. I subscribe to the daily newspaper so I don’t need tv for the news. I may still buy a smart tv. and have the advantage of a larger screen, but that’s still on the fence. Now that warmer weather is approaching there’ll be a lot of gardening and yard work to be done, and I’ll be too pooped to participate at the end of each day.
    Good work, y’all!

  • Gerrit:

    Welcome to the club!

  • Welcome to the satellitelessness (say that three times quickly) of spring, summer, outdoors and not TV. In the past we would often have it go into “vacation mode”, shut off for a few months when we would be outside gardening at all available times. Now it has gotten to be too expensive (Shaw Direct $110+/m) and as others have mentioned before, not nearly the value that it costs.

  • Robin Bailey:

    We got rid of cable around 7 years ago and we don’t miss it at all. We don’t know what people are talking about when they mention current shows but that’s o.k. We get our news online and don’t have to watch ridiculous commercials. If we are desperate for T.V news(which rarely happens) we can pick up an Ottawa station.

  • Miriam K:

    Many years ago I read a book where the author made the statement that reading and watching news about the world makes us feel as if we were doing something about the various disasters and catastrophes we read about … sort of like a false cathartic release. He recommended taking a news fast for a month to see what that felt like. I tried it and frankly I’ve never gone back. It’s amazing but between seeing the headlines (you can’t miss them on the newspaper boxes or at the drug store) and what other people tell me, I usually know what’s going on generally. If something peaks my interest I can go online and learn more about it. I do read the local paper because if I wanted to I could do something about what I read. I can’t do anything really about the disaster in Nepal.

  • We got rid of cable 2 or three years ago. Don’t miss it a bit. Hubby still gets his news fix online but to tell the truth the news just repeats itself over and over with a change about once a week. For a week or two it will be some subject that they think is incredibly important…until it wears out. Then it moves on to the next subject and I have to wonder if the last subject was so important why are there no updates. Currently it is the earthquake in Nepal but in a week or so you won’t here a thing about it. A few months ago it was Ebola. Did that suddenly get cured? So ya Michelle, I’m with you and can probably match your rant. If I want to zone out with some mindless TV after an especially trying day I use netflix or Hulu when and where I want it.

  • Dan:

    Yes, Cam, those monthly TV Dish payments are the kicker and our grown children now know what we were talking about but watching TV with an antenna and only seeing a fuzzy puck, during a hockey game, was tough in those days.

    We never did subscribe, but with digital OTA (Over The Air) broadcasting, things have changed for the better.

    We actually have two new squarish antennas on our tower: one facing Ottawa, an hour away, for CBC, CTV, TVO and the other facing Watertown, 2 hours away, for PBS 1,2 &3 our favourite, and the seldom watched ABC50 and WWNY TV7. If our French was better, we would even have more choices.

    The picture is crystal clear. My son says it’s because the signal’s not compressed.

    This site checks the reception for your own area:

    With the use of a PVR we record and zip through commercials or use replay several times during “Murder She Wrote” or “Barnaby” looking for the clues. We’re addicted to news too and it’s nice knowing that the 12 noon and 6 o’clock are waiting for us. “Survivors” is my wife’s favourite, so we always watch at least 20 minutes after its broadcast. (I’m getting better on the remote.) We can always pause if nature calls. Now if I could only stop eating in front of the TV.

    Our last purchase was a $40 dongle that plugs into the TV and allows us to broadcast kid’s YouTube videos from the computer to the big TV to entertain the grandkids.

    Well this is the end of my coffee break and I’m heading back outside.

    BTW – Who’s got time for TV after the winter is finally over?

  • I fired Commicast months ago and now, on the occasion that I watch TV at a friend’s house, I find it obnoxious and wonder how I could have watched it all those years, paying for the propaganda machine to boot! Don’t miss it at all. Most PBS shows can be watched streaming on-line, so you won’t miss Downton Abbey or any other Masterpiece show for that matter. Plus, you get to watch it when it fits your schedule. Unfortunately, PBS has developed a nasty habit of inserting their commercials into the middle of the shows on-line. So much for commercial free public television.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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