underrated the case for Sky TV

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Sky TV is underrated. Pah, I hear you say. Not only is it synonymous with those unsightly plastic dishes outside the home, it's also the primary purveyor of unsound tosh within.

Of course, I'll have to give ground a bit here. Sky-TV has the capacity to broadcast on umpteen channels but the resources to fill only three or four. There is nothing TV executives hate more than underused capacity, so they insist on filling the airwaves with hours of cut-price filler: retired DJs sitting in 6ft-wide studios interviewing the owners of talking parrots, or bought-in soap operas detailing emotional turmoils in the lives of Melbourne swimming-pool attendants. The BBC and ITV regularly fill our screens with such nonsense during the day, and Sky has channel after channel of 24-hour daytime TV.

But owning a TV is not about what you don't want to watch (99 per cent of the output, unless you're an irredeemable couch potato), it's about what you do want to watch. And this is a category in which Sky is quite capable of holding its own. The major films (which turn up four years before they do on the main terrestrial channels) are not interrupted by commercials; they are not hacked about to remove language that would be considered mild in the playground; they are not shortened (sacrilege) to finish exactly on the hour, in order to go live to Hull for the North- eastern heat of Come Dancing; they are not split into two parts, to accommodate the great god of news. In short, they are treated with the utmost good taste and sensitivity.

The same applies to sport. Sky doesn't go in for razzmatazz highlights. Be it a league football match from Leeds or a test-match from the West Indies, the coverage is always complete and uninterrupted. Technical innovations, such as high-quality slow-motion, have been pioneered by Sky Sports. While it shows a replay from five angles, the BBC will be leaving Lord's for the mind-crunchingly dreary Newsroom South-East.

The conclusion is inescapable. Whereas ITV and the BBC are merchants of trivia and sensationalism, bereft of artistic sensitivity, only Mr Murdoch can be relied upon to respect the integrity of his subject-matter, with the care and respect of the true artist.

So let's give Murdoch a modicum of credit for a change. Taken as a whole, Sky might not be in a position to call itself "good" yet (I never went that far, did I?); but it is, undoubtedly, underrated.

HARRY THOMPSON

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