Why trying to watch TV is so trying…

I have had a rant about technology before on this blog but I am now going to vent my feelings once again. This time, it’s television.

Attached to my television is a device known as a digibox. This accesses all the free digital TV channels, which are known collectively as Freeview here in the UK. It can also digitally record and retrieve programmes. Importantly for me, this particular digibox has text-to-speech functions on all its menus.

I record a lot of programmes and last summer, tired out from hard work, my digibox had to be sent away for mending. Since it has come back, whilst much improved, it has also had its temperamental moments and around the start of this year it threw a wobbly and refused to record some of my favourite programmes.

When this happened before, friends put ITV Hub on my mobile phone and set it up so I could watch some of the episodes I had missed. (ITV Hub is the online service for watching programmes which have previously been broadcast on the channels operated by the UK’s commercial Independent Television company.)

So, last Sunday afternoon, having a little spare time, I thought I would try and do this myself and catch up on missed programmes by playing them on my phone. It couldn’t be that hard, right?


I knew you had to go to “Categories” first and select “AD” for audio-description and, amazingly, I managed to do that, or so I thought. I then tried to find the series I wanted. I found it eventually but could only get the third and last episode. I wanted episode 2 as well. In fact, not unreasonably, I wanted it before episode 3.

After much tapping and shaking the phone in frustration, I did manage to find episode 2 but could I click on it? No I could not!

In the end I gave up and watched episode 3. It wasn’t ideal, but I thought that I could probably catch up, which I could. A short way into the programme, though, it dawned on me that I was not receiving audio-description. I couldn’t face going through the menus all over again so I just managed without. Fortunately, it was a show with a lot of dialogue, so I think I got all the important points.

At some stage in all this, however, the app on my phone developed an obsession with PIN numbers and the name of my first pet. Why I should need to set up security details when the app has been on my phone for some months, I can’t imagine.

Next, I turned my hand to BBC iPlayer.

I’m not saying that someone more tech savvy than me couldn’t have found their way around the app but to start with I couldn’t find audio-description at all. Categories started with “Art” and then went on to list the BBC channels. I went round and round in circles for some time. Eventually I did find one of the series I wanted but, again, as with the ITV Hub, I could only find the last programme in the series.

I spent the entire afternoon in this frustrating vicious circle. My language became more and more unladylike and there were times when I was sorely tempted to throw my mobile phone out the window, which, incidentally, was shut.

I realise that, in the cosmic scheme of things, missing a few TV programmes isn’t the worst that can happen. But it is hard just to shrug it off when you know that  a sighted person could have done relatively easily what I spent a whole afternoon failing to achieve.

I have calmed down now and kind friends are going to help me out by letting me watch the programmes I’ve missed on their smart TV. Surely, though, television apps could be designed so that this “simple” activity wasn’t so incredibly difficult for those with visual impairment?

There. I’ve got it out of my system. Rant over.

Until the next time, that is!