The Swedish season of the duck

British broadcasting has been so busy of late hoisting the flag of consumer choice that it will soon be something of a rarity to find anyone watching the same programme as you. But whether the future's a bright one of flexibly-delivered, individually-tailored exciting programming or the more likely one of flexibly-delivered, individually-tailored cheap nonsense, it looks like the television's days of being a virtual hearth the whole country could warm themselves by together are numbered.

Not so here in Sweden, where Christmas has finally just come to an end. With its deep-rooted socialist traditions and even deeper-rooted sense of communality, technology in Sweden has tended to bring people closer together rather than ease them ever further apart. In particular, Swedish television and radio still seem more to be an instrument of a paternal state wishing its children instructed and content than the reflection of a diverse population's desire for amusement and information.

You'll understand then that Swedish television is, in the main, dull. At best you could claim the benefit from the lack of arguments over the remote control (there's nothing on the other channel either); at worst, it is direly parochial. Come Christmas time, though, this parochialism comes into its own, serving, in the fading light of the church, in its function of providing a genuine collective focus for national and familial ritual...

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