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About that TV service, Mr Branson...

Losing your Virginity

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That said, I was prepared to persist, on the grounds that it was a premium service.

No longer. The TV service is getting steadily worse and worse, technically. Like most viewers I would like to record programmes for later viewing - but the quality of the picture and sound is simply not acceptable. I don't think I own an old VHS tape in bad enough condition to simulate the gaps in sound, the MPEG artefacts that blot out the picture for two or three seconds at a time, and the loss of picture altogether.

Right now, I'm not recording a Hercule Poirot programme on ITV because Virgin has lost all ITV feeds. This is a more complete loss than usual, I'll grant you, but loss of programme for two or three minutes at a time isn't infrequent here in North London.

Ah yes, recording! You have TV Drive, the DVR service, which at first, I loved. Today, it is hardly worth having.

If you think the picture is bad before it reaches the TVD, you should see what TVD makes of it. Well, no, I wouldn't wish that on anybody. But that's trivial, really, by comparison with the disaster that is your electronic programme guide.

I can set to record all right, but what I get is only sometimes what I asked for. All too often, I get a two minute introduction followed by "We hope you enjoyed this programme", or another programme entirely. Having a recording system which I can't depend on is actually worse than not having a recording system at all.

Also, I'm trying to set up a Sling Box so I can watch TV over the internet. The output of the TVD box is simply not acceptable to Sling.

You make a lot in your advertising about your phone service. The phone works, quite a lot of the time. It isn't working now, and really, that's the last straw. I did call the support phone number (0845 on my mobile) and after spending two minutes entering data and pressing option buttons, I got...the busy tone.

I did try ringing to say I was cancelling, but couldn't get through to that either.

Really, the service I want is one I can now get from Freeview, and I can watch Sky sports programmes in the local pub if it matters that much.

And yes, I do worry a bit about the ethics of downloading torrents. I will probably not do it much, for that reason. But whether you or I approve or not isn't going to solve the problem, is it?

Finally, Sir Richard, as I said at the top of this, I know you aren't involved in Virgin Media. I appear to be one of the few in the country who knows that Telewest owns the name purely because they bought Virgin Mobile and the name with it.

However, I'm afraid that the damage done to the Branson brand by Virgin trains is nothing to the ruin that will be wrought by Virgin Media, if it doesn't start finding the money to invest in improving its services across the board.

If I were you, I'd seriously consider suing it for defamation. ®

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