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The wonders of digital television. Not so long ago, promotional music videos were on the verge of beocming obselete, as the 90s penchant for "live" TV performances squeezed out their opportunities for exposure. The ITV Chart Show, for a whole decade the main source of airtime for the music video, was the major casualty.
However, two recent developments have helped to return the form to prominence. The Home Computing explosion has led to many CD single releases including an enhanced CD-ROM section with, usually, the full-length music video featured. This started around 1998, but back then the quality wasn't much to shout about - usually a tiny square on the screen with fuzzy images pixellating. Now, of course, things have improved, and with it the return of pop videos being seen by more than a small section of music fans.
The other factor in their resurgence has been the advent of widely-available digital television channels. Although the likes of MTV Europe and VH-1 have been around for almost a decade, it's fair to say their audience figures were far from substantial for a long time. That is really beginning to change, and the array of non-stop, 24-hour music channels now on offer, the pop video is once again an important part of the industry.
The Box is one of the most popular UK-based "request" channels. It's presented in a no-frills style, with bright clear graphics and no discernable prejudice towards (or against) certain genres of music. That said, it does focus on mainly current/future chart fodder, so you're more likely to find the teen-pop acts on The Box than, say, on VH-1 (though only slightly).
Its format is simple - videos are each assigned a three-digit code, and random selections of them are displayed continually across the foot of the screen, along with instructions on how to *vote* using a special phone number.
Voting is not implicitly neccesary or required to watch The Box, thankfully, as the call charges of 60p-a-minute seem rather steep just to request a video that is almost certain to crop up every hour or so anyway. You may as well sit back and keep the remote handy to channel-hop when something comes on that's not to your taste. With plenty of similar channels available (MTV, Q, VH-1) as well as the non-request likes of MTV2, MTV Pure Music, VH-1 Classic and Play UK, a video you're interested in watching will invariably be only a few seconds (and a couple of button presses) away.
Probably the most mainstream of them all, The Box has the upper hand to some extent because of its virtually undiluted 24-hour rotation of videos with no presenters. A 10-minute interview section - "Box Talk" on the hour, the occasional ad breaks and US-style artist introductions along the lines of "You're watching The Box....playing the hits YOU choose" are the only interruptions.
Its enjoyable in small doses, although serious music freaks might be better off with one of the other channels that offer vintage music videos and less populist selections.
The Box works well as an *of-the-moment* music channel you can dip in and out of with no fear of missing anything too much.