ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
LAST YEAR, I became part of what I believe is known as the satellite revolution. Sky were showing a Test series between the West Indies and Australia, and I allowed my distaste for the dismantling of British broadcasting to be outweighed by my addiction to cricket. This week, I became part of the counter-revolution. The man from the cable company came round and pulled the plug, and the Hughes household breathed a sigh of relief.

I shall miss the cricket, if they land another scoop. I shall miss the clever way they show you what's on all the different channels, breaking the screen up into a dozen squares populated with ants that bear a passing resemblance to Selina Scott, Andy Gray or Bruce Willis. But I won't miss much else. We never signed on for the film channels: they seemed like an expensive way of confining yourself to a small corner of the video shop. I can't remember ever switching on Sky One. Somehow we never got round to ordering our groceries from the comfort of our armchair. And Sky News, though pretty good for a newcomer, seldom gives you anything that's not available more conveniently on Ceefax and Oracle. Rupert Murdoch bangs on about choice, but has nothing to offer the choosy. Life isn't long enough for extraterrestrial television.

There may be a parallel here with Maastricht. Until very recently an unstoppable tide seemed to be taking us towards European unity. Asked why we needed it, politicians of all hues talked airily about the way forward. Now it looks more complicated than that. The same with Sky. The idea that it was the future took such a grip that the BBC, which should have been trying to strangle it at birth, got into bed with it. The more you see of satellite and cable, the less they look like the way forward. I'm all for progress if it means things get better. There is no evidence here that they have done.

TALKING of the movies, the crash course in story structure given by Robert McKee returns to Britain next month. It doesn't come cheap (about pounds 300, tax-deductible if you're lucky), but it's good: last year's course was the most interesting three days I ever spent in a classroom, and you didn't have to have a half-written screenplay in your bottom drawer to enjoy it. It culminates in a six-hour showing of Casablanca, on a decent-sized screen, complete with scene-by-scene commentary, which manages to analyse the magic without ruining it. McKee is in London 16-18 October and Birmingham 13-15 November; ring 0732 810925 for details.

INSPIRED by Ben Thompson's piece on this page last week, a friend went out to buy the new Loudon Wainwright album. He wanted the cassette, and found it - at pounds 9.49. He thought this 'absolutely scandalous'. I thought it absolutely typical of the music business. Digital compact cassette is coming, and mini-disc. Both will be as flexible as cassette, and as expensive as CD. If the price of tapes goes up in the meantime, the hike to come will not seem so big. Except in the ever-watchful eyes of supporters of the Campaign for Cheaper CDs. So please - don't pay full price if you can help it. Our logo is displayed in the windows of the 150-odd discount shops that we listed in our directory in May. If you come across others that have come round to our point of view, please let me know, c/o Arts Desk, Independent on Sunday, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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