If it's concerts it must be Germany: Hester Lacey watches more than 200 channels with the Chilver family
Sunday 22 August 1993
'It's quite a landmark, this house,' says Steve. 'You can't miss it with the two dishes on the roof.' Both systems can pick up 'about 200 channels - they come and go'. With a handset not much larger than an ordinary TV remote control, Steve calls up a menu on the screen, selects a satellite and begins to scan through the evening's selection.
'Every time it clicks we're moving into a different part of the sky,' he explains, flicking rapidly through Norway (a pig-tailed child in red gingham eating something crunchy), Serbia (two people sitting on a balcony, looking dolefully out over the mountains), Croatia (lingering close-ups of grapes in a vineyard), Portugal (psychedelic purple and orange backdrops) and Poland (murky black-and-white film).
'The fact that it's in a foreign language doesn't spoil your enjoyment if you just want to see what other people are like. It's a window on the world,' says Steve. 'Watching the Arabic channels is fascinating. I've never sat inside a Muslim temple at a prayer meeting but on television there you are, right in there. We've got a world view - American visitors have remarked on it. Satellite makes you a world citizen.'
Steve's wife Polly agrees. 'You tend to pick up the language - words here and there. Tutti Frutti is a German gameshow where they take their clothes off, it's almost like a road traffic accident, dreadful, but you feel you have to watch it, and you find you understand what the man's saying.'
Polly admits to being a fan of The Simpsons. 'There's a lot of snobbery - you're supposed to say you watch all the foreign concerts, but of course you watch other things too.' She has seen Neighbours from the very first episode on the UK Gold channel, and yearns for reruns of Prisoner Cell Block H.
Both Steve and Polly follow foreign news broadcasts every day, and watch the nightly English-language news transmissions from Serbia and Croatia. 'Britain has always had the World Service,' says Steve, 'and now other countries are imitating the same format.'
He recommends Italian stations for 'spectacular light entertainment - we just don't make it any more' and Germany for 'heavyweight music concerts'.
The Chilvers were one of the first families in Britain to install satellite TV. 'Six years ago I saw a big dish in a window of an aerial store, and I wondered what it was and brought it home,' explains Steve. 'It was a giant thing - 8ft across. It took us two weeks to get a picture out of it because there were no instructions.'
At the time he worked as a BBC producer and director; two years ago he left to set up his own business importing, improving and distributing satellite systems. 'It's considered a tremendous social gaffe to have a Sky dish - it suggests you watch nothing but banal quiz shows. But it's considered very OK to have a satellite system that shows you to be a thinking person, even though you might use it for watching the same stuff that they're watching up the road.'
Steve and Polly claim to watch about three hours of television each day - less than the national average (between 23 and 34 hours a week). Steve feels that a wide choice of channels has made them more selective rather than less discriminating, and they are adamant that the children don't watch too much either. 'We don't watch enough,' chips in Jessica. Her favourite programme is The Simpsons, and she is already a techno-buff. 'When the programmes go, I can get them back.' She is mad on horses, but she 'hates reading'.
'Jessica likes the old Fifties programmes on Sky - the same stuff that I grew up with, I Love Lucy and The Brady Bunch,' says Polly. 'Crispin watches sport - wrestling, golf, football, you name it. We had running battles about it, which is one of the reasons they have their own system.'
Crispin likes video games and drawing, but he hates reading as well. 'Who wants to read a book? It's boring.'
Steve is not worried. 'There's a new definition of literacy now and it's more important to be literate with a keyboard and a PC and home technology. Our kids have no techno-fear whatsoever.'
'I'm unhappy with the violence level - I don't like to see violence glorified,' says Steve. 'They love gore, things where people have their limbs torn off. I wouldn't say it's exactly giving them a classical education.' Crispin and Jessica claim that they would not be upset if they only had four channels to choose from. 'What about when your Sky One wasn't working?' sighs Steve. 'I killed you]' squeaks Jessica gleefully.
Systems like the Chilver family's cost about pounds 2,000 each, 'but nobody else would have two,' says Steve. 'Having two is outrageous.'
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 The most powerful passports in the world
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Nepal earthquake: How you can help victims of the Kathmandu disaster
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital in London where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
General Election 2015: The photo of a tree that proves the Tories have an image problem
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...