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24 HOURS FROM HAPPINESS

20-03-2007

Lynn Hawthorne is missing her favourite telly programme in the fallout of the Branson v Murdoch telly wars. Only Jack Bauer can save her now.

Jack Bauer

I am worried about Jack Bauer. Last time I saw him, he was on the verge of nervous collapse, feeling unable to ”do this” anymore. I am concerned about Los Angeles. Without Jack, how will the City of Angels survive? And I have my reservations about the President of the United States, Wayne Palmer. He has developed a nasty twitch and the habit of staring, unseeing, into the distance.

Without Jack, without the Counter Terrorist Unit, Los Angeles Division, without us, the great British public, what is to become of the Western world? And we only have 24 hours in which to solve the mystery….

Let's begin by asking Rupert Murdoch. It's his company, Sky Television, which has caused this period of stress and worry. If he and his people hadn't have been so greedy, requiring more greenbacks than VirginMedia thought it was reasonable to pay, we, the viewers, would still be abreast of developments.

We fans have already suffered the traumatic transfer of 24 from BBC2 to Sky One, complete with adverts every six minutes diluting the tension. To those without cable or satellite TV, the drama was already lost.

And now, with the dispute between Sky and Virgin raging, Sky One has been forcibly removed from cable packages. To me, the channel is no loss, as 24 was the only programme on it that I watched, and I didn't subscribe to the sports or film channels.

Before you begin to think I've lost my marbles completely and disappeared into the Kingdom of Anoraks (ok, so maybe on this one it's true!), I do have a serious point to make. I don't, for a minute, blame Virgin.

Money is the reason that the BBC dropped out after Season 2, when the Fox Network hiked up the price. Virgin has decided that improvements to their newly-acquired cable service are required and have chosen to divert resources to that end rather than pay over-inflated prices demanded by the Murdoch clan.

As disappointed as I am to lose the series only one-third of the way in, I appreciate the stand that Virgin is making.

No, it's the dirty tricks marketing campaign operated by Sky that really gets my goat. Billboards proclaim ‘Get Jack Back!' and encourage viewers to desert cable in favour of satellite.

The posters then state that ‘VirginMedia has dropped Sky One' and point an accusing finger at Virgin in an attempt to fool us into thinking we cable customers have been let down. It is, quite simply, a lie; or at the very least, not the entire truth.

As if huge billboards aren't enough, Sky has now taken to bombarding my letterbox with A5 cards with the same message. It's blatant marketeering and untrue and I'm refusing to stand for it.

Every time I get such a mailing, I scrawl all over it in red pen and stick it back in the postbox marked ‘Return to Sender'.On the last card, I asked Sky how their viewing figures are now.

If they think that this will encourage people to make the switch, they're very much mistaken. I shan't. I object to satellite dishes at the best of times, thinking them an ugly inclusion in the urban landscape, but won't take up the offer now on principle.

Perhaps I'll do what everybody else in this situation who is a fan of 24 or Lost will do: view the downloads from the Internet instead.

It's a marketing move, intended merely to remove the obstacle of competition, which will surely fail. Murdoch has forced people to make a choice - him or nothing - but what he needs to ask himself is is he ready for people calling his bluff?

I can't help wondering what Jack Bauer would do. We've seen what he can do with a hacksaw. There's no telling what he could do with a satellite dish!

Do you agree with Lynn? Join the Branson And His Telly Service thread on our Miscellaneous messageboard.

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