A bone to pick.

The opinions offered below are mine, and are my perceptions only. I am not employed by Melita or Go, nor do I earn anything from the said companies. To my knowledge all information below is true and unbiased. I am subscribed to Melita for full TV package. Melita offer the best package on the islands, but with every company, sometimes it takes an outside view to improve things.

This time, the bone I have to pick up with is called Melita.

As time (and money) goes by, I look at the bills in hand and continue to queston myself.

“Why the hell am I still insisting on using an out-dated low quality TV provider such as Melita in 2009? And for such a price?”

Let me begin by saying that I understand that on such a little place (ie Malta), the infrastructure and setup costs must be high, and the return, in numbers, relatively small in amounts. Therefore it is only understandable that the fees must be commisurate with the service vs. the subscribers.

But let me say this. The infrastructure was already in place by Maltacom (back then), when Melita had opted to use the Maltacom distribution pipes in lieu of new trenching.

The old Jerrold set-top boxes were ancient and from what I could see, were being totally replaced on all their respective networks across the US, Canada, and the rest of Europe. Add to that their hopeless mono audio quality, and you are looking at a fledgling company trying hard to grab a sector of the market with (relatively) modest outlay.

I remember being an early subscriber almost immediately. I can also remember defending Melita for their service against mates of mine who had gone to satellite completely.

I can recall them telling me that I get a commision from Melita for using their service. How further from the truth could they be?

I used to tell my mates that a cable system was the sign of the future, while they all pointed out the deficiencies inherent with the cable company in the fact that I had a limited number of (mono) channels while they all could upgrade to as many (stereo) channels as they wanted. (I guess the free porn channels were also an important issue with them.)

I could on the other hand, point out the fact that whenever their pirated satellite card conked out on a Saturday evening, it was to my house that they usually congregated to watch the Formula 1 and the Serie A (which at that time, according to the news from Italy, was being pirated by Melita themselves. Telepiu’anyone?) Cease and Desist, if my memory recalls. During the Juve-Inter match was it that this came to light?

However, truth be told, I eventually switched to satellite not only when the cost of cable escalated to a point that I could no longer afford it, but when the satellite limitations at that time were eclipsed by the huge benefits brought forward. Free Juve matches every week? Hell yeah. I could no longer argue against that logic.

So it was that I switched to satellite. And boy, it was a wonder. Being so much more than an electronics technician, I made my own interfacing (at that time ridiculously simple), connected the old Nokia box to a 286 decoding the signals…and Bob’s your uncle.

Those were the golden days of satellite. Sky was still a glimmer in the mind’s eye, and Telepiu’, together with (Dutch, French and Spanish) Canal+ and Al Jazeera were providing all the football I could digest.

Finally the bubble burst and with Mr.Murdoch creating SKY and usurping all the other broadcasters in one fell swoop, the game was up.

Sky became impossible to crack, and with it came the realisation that I no longer had time to dabble in the mystic art of satellite.

So it came about that I reverted to being a Melita subscriber again. Mind you, I have to be honest that despite many people complaining about bad customer service or interruptions to their services, I have been blessed with relatively good service.

What is the bone I have to pick with Melita then?

Easy and simple. Their TV service needs a face-lift. Yes, it is laughably old. Remember this is 2009. Going into 2010. So what if their service is ‘Digital’? It’s just a buzz word.

You can provide digital service as much as you wish, but if it’s bad, it’s bad. (By the way, what IS the resolution of the ‘digital’ picture being transmitted?)

Ok, so after many a hullaballo, the boxes were changed to stereo. We welcomed that. What we don’t welcome is the excessive pricing strategy.

One example? Listen to this, Melita guys. Why the hell do you have kids cartoons (the proper cartoons like Boomerang and Cartoonito) only on the higher priced package? I have looked at the ‘L’ package just now, and notice that on the kids channels, there is nothing but Disney and Nickelodeon.

Seriously guys. Has anyone ever noticed how incredibly bad Nickelodeon programming is? A further couple of points. Do kids watch Nickelodeon? Or do parents allow their kids to watch Nickelodeon? A waste of time, with senseless bashing and violence. Definitely not good.

So it is with heavy heart that I must pay the extra thirteen Euros per month to just avail ourselves of Boomerang and Cartoonito.

And this is just for the kids channels.

Alright…the blurb by Melita would go – ‘But you get 92 channels..’

Well, who gets to watch the Fashion channel, or EWTN, or Poker channel, or Moda TV (super-low resolution) I won’t go into the utter drivel delivered by MTV since a large proportion of the population seems to be turned on by the gyrating uh.. ‘singers’ of ridiculous songs.

Why can’t we buy the packages that we want at a better price? (The Maltese channels would be the first to go. Such biased rubbish with low standards.) Why can’t we settle for a, say, minimum 30 channel package? It’s not how much you have, it’s WHAT you see. And the Maltese population can tell you that we ARE picky.

And now to my really big boner (excuse my pun).

The Sports channels have gone up in price again. According to Melita, this is due to UEFA increasing the price of licensing again. So, since I am largely indoors during the weekend, this I will concede. Modern football costs money, and the service offered here is extremely good. Add to this the extremely competent presenters during ‘Kick-Off’ and you do have a very worthy package. A month’s football (and a bevy of other sports, including the useless wrestling..bleurgh!) will only cost the equivalent of two pizzas and a couple of Pepsi, so yes, I consider this to be a good package price.

My contention here is with the quality of the signal and that ugly blasted huge impractical AMATEURISH melita logo in the bottom left of the screen. Why? Who in hell’s name designed that obscenity? It is absolutely humongous!

Let’s start with my setup first. I have a gorgeous 50inch plasma TV with a super-fast computer and Samsung Blu-Ray player delivering immeasurably superior and unbearably beautiful movies at 720 and 1080 resolutions. All this is piped out through an old-style, classy NAD amplifier, delivering hundreds of watts of power to incredibly expensive Sony DSW speakers. Watching an HD movie is a moving experience. You’ll want to see the big-screen stars perform over and over again. (I’d rather give my car away than sell these Sonys)

So, as one can tell, I not only know what I want, I also know how to get things working in harmony. As an experienced electronics technician and old IT savvy guy, I know what I am saying.

Now, back to that bloody logo….which is… even now, happily burning a permanent image on my screen. I have MELITA LIVE on my TV even when I am not watching the sports channels. A lawyer friend of mine informs me off the record that it could be a case for litigation if I so wanted. Not yet…not yet. But I DO urge Melita to take a look at the way that other channels portray their logo and redress a situation that should never have come to arise.

And the final nail in the coffin is the fact that the video signal is appalling. Many people are actually happy with the quality of their fare, and I can understand that. But for people buying modern TV/Audio equipment these days, it is simply not on. Some time back, I think it was two years or three, I cannot remember exactly, there seemed to be an experiment going on at Melita, consisting of HD transmissions on a special box(?). If I recall even more correctly, I contacted Melita to ask what one had to do, and was informed that not only did I require the ownership of an HD TV (obvious really), but that I had to pay a goodly amount of money for the HD box(!!!) and the experimental service. Get out of it!

Since then, nothing has come out of it, I presume. Further calls to Melita indicated clearly that no one seemed (seems!) to know what the hell I was talking about. I actually looked at my set-top box to see if ‘component’ connectors were available, but unhappily I only have an RGB Scart outlet. There is no information on the Melita web-site either.

The TV system used is sadly antiquated and needs a refresh. Now if only somebody can talk to me about whether any improvements are taking place. I don’t want to exaggerate, but sometimes I watch internet TV through my PC and onto my TV, in incredible HD, mainly from Holland. My goodness, what a difference.

The Internet service offered by Melita is really very very good. No complaints AT ALL from me. I would not change it for the world. Excellent service. Hats off!

Then there are other aspects of Melita that I’d rather refrain from talking about and refuse to be drawn into confrontation about.

The Movie channel. Grow up! Who wants to pay to watch a movie that is usually more than a year old?

The Hello fixed line is just about adequate. Great pricing here. Can’t complain about that. BUT. Every couple of days when I ring I get an annoying 3-octave tone going dee, dee, dee for no apparent reason. This happens with whoever I am calling. How to solve it? Call yourself on your mobile phone. Really? Really Really! God almighty. 2009 springs to mind again.

The mobile service. I don’t want to go there. I would only accept this if Melita paid me..and handsomely at that. What use is a mobile phone if you cannot get through to people? Past friends have become unreachable, and my brother insisted that his contract be rescinded. Maybe this is because the system is still in its infancy. Well, as a designer of electronic products for the industry, I can’t wait for somebody to get hurt before applying improvements to my products.

The intrusion of Melita in the satellite sharing system has also left a very bad taste in my mouth. If people want to break the law by using this sharing, it is up to the local police forces to ensure legality, and not bringing it up yourselves. I can assure you that with software these days it is possible to obtain anything without your knowledge.

Finally, the price is too high for what is offered. Customers taking a whole package (like me) should be offered better pricing. Comparing your complete package (sans sports) to Go’s is clear. Higher pricing at practically the same levels..with 400 minutes of mobile minutes thrown in with GO. Not that you can use them with Melita naturally.

So it was actually quite a big bone this week. One might think that if I am so disappointed, why not change allegiance to GO? Easy, without football I cannot live. Since Melita have all the rights to Serie A and Premiership (and also doing a good job), there is not much to do.

I would actually give a 6.5 out of 10 to Melita, with the mobile service and the pricing, together with TV definition bringing down the votes. Internet and Sports Channels are actually second to none.

But oh, how I wish I can watch a football match the way it is meant to be. In glorious HD.

Hello? Anyone listening?