Broadcasting in the World Unseen 

3 April 2004

Early yesterday morning, we were surprised by a knock at the door. On stumbling downstairs and opening it, I was astonished to see Madame Arcati. She was so excited at having apparently perfected her Ectoplasmic Speaking Tube, thereby allowing direct conversations with The World Unseen instead of those tiresome and unreliable Ouija board sessions, that she had cycled round to tell us in person, completely forgetting that we have had a telephone installed.

She insisted that we had a seance right there and then, although I have a sneaking suspicion that it was really an excuse to enable her to be at home to watch David Lean’s version of ‘Blithe Spirit’ on Channel 4 later on. It is, of course, ‘her’ film, even if she is portrayed a little shall we say ‘eccentrically’ therein.

You will no doubt remember that the last time we contacted our chatty, though somewhat incorporeal, Helmsan of early Independent Television, Captain B, Madame Arcati’s then still highly experimental speaking tube device had a number of, well, explosive challenges. As a result, we were more than a little anxious as we sat down at the table. Luckily, our fears proved to be unfounded, and soon the redoubtable Captain was coming through loud and clear on the aforementioned celestial communicator. He could evidently hear us clearly as well, and reported that the whole experience reminded him of his sea-going days – which, of course, you can take as you will.

We were hoping to ask the Captain about his reactions to the appointment of Michael Grade (he diplomatically replied that he’d “had experience of the Grades for many years”, and would say no more than that). We also sought his views on the recent announcement at MipTV that FormerlyThames Media was planning to make episodes of The Bill available on the Internet to pay-per-view customers. Unfortunately this concept at first appeared a little too complex for the Captain to grasp. We assumed that this was because the television system in the World Beyond was rather, well, antiquated, but it turned out that this is far from the case.

In fact, said the Captain, television as he knows it in the Etheric Realm offers everything he might expect, and no more. To begin with, the standard is still VHF 405-line, meaning that one transmitter can easily cover the entire region, but the resolution and overall sound and picture quality are such as only nostalgia – and rose-tinted spectacles – can render, perfect in every detail.

Television is also, at least in theory, in black and white. But, says the Captain, that hardly matters, because as creating something in the spirit world is accomplished simply by thinking it, most people actually watch in colour, thanks to an etheric-ray-based colour TV system called SpectralVision which was not, as one might think, invented by Gerry Anderson, but rather by one Alice Bailey.

The Captain went on to tell us that while there are only three main channels, you can get additional ones, if you know what they are (some of his friends have never heard of Channel 4, or even BBC-2, for example). Of particular interest, the third channel can be, virtually, any region you like – or can think of. Of course, Captain B watches all his favourite programmes on Associated Rediffusion – what else! – but his neighbour, also on the Board of Empyrean Estates hlc, prefers Westward (although that may change if Rediffusion successfully buys the Westward Galleon, which our Captain has had his eye on for several decades). Meanwhile, the people across the street apparently enjoy Rutland Weekend Television, whatever that might be.

In addition, shows are already available more-or-less ‘on demand’, which probably explains the Captain’s earlier confusion. Your set, should you be watching in the World Unseen, can immediately show any programme from the past – or future – simply by requesting it from the archives held by each company.

However, our Captain notes, the future archives tend to be severely limited, as many programmes in the future are made by production companies nobody has heard of, instead of by real broadcasters. And they all look the same anyway, even though, we are told, they are terribly popular, and the programme-makers are allowed to keep all the money instead of using it to make proper programmes, as was the case in the Captain’s day. He regards this, overall, as a Bad Thing.

You can also watch programmes that were never made, and Captain B tells us that he frequently enjoys episodes of Dr Who recorded after Michael Grade had axed the series – and eventually, no doubt, so shall we.

All programmes are shown with their original front and end-caps, in-vision continuity, and other features redolent of ‘real’ broadcasting, of course, and as you have requested the programmes yourself, you have no need of any on-screen displays to tell you what channel or programme you’re watching, or what’s coming next, any more than you do normally. Plus, if you wish, you can skip the commercials (which in The Captain’s case mainly feature toothpaste tubes sticking out of ice-blocks and songs about Happy Motoring). It all sounds a bit like a Tivo with a TARDIS inside, or should that be the other way around.

There is no sign telling you a programme is ‘all new’, either: if you are existing beyond time and space, there’s no such thing as ‘new’. Which seems to be not a million miles away from television on Earth, quite frankly.

Due to the time, Madame Arcati wished to bring the week’s session to a close at this point, but in signing off, the Captain, psychic as one quite definitely is in the World Unseen, commented that he, too, was also intending to watch ‘Blithe Spirit’ later on, and that the theme music, by Richard Addinsell, had been used for afternoon startups by his own station in the early days.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Liverpool, Thursday 19 May 2022