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Crave Talk: Here comes the cable virgin

Having problems with your NTL or Telewest cable service? From the beginning of next year they will be packaged under the Virgin brand with a much more friendly logo. So that's alright then

Having problems with your NTL or Telewest cable service? Confused by the fact that the merged ntl:Telewest company also bought a mobile phone operator, Virgin Mobile? Let your confusion end: from the beginning of next year the whole lot will be packaged under the Virgin brand with a much more friendly logo. So that's alright then.

There's no question that if you were asking people how they felt about different brands, many cable customers would answer with the top line of the typewriter keyboard: "£$%£*£^%!!". So we can see the logic in starting again with the friendly 'ole red livery of a Virgin company, associated with exotic travel, bearded entrepreneurs and rock music.

On the other hand, getting decent customer service from the cable company is such a hoary old problem that Jim Carrey managed to make a large wodge of cash playing on people's anxieties about the horrors of dealing with The Cable Guy.

So we feel for Steve Burch, president of NTL, when he says "While work remains to be done between now and the re-brand, our decision to announce its name and logo today is a reflection of my confidence that we're well on the way to creating an organisation that can live up to this vision by consistently putting the consumer first."

For anyone who's struggled to get past automated telephone customer service, or to arrange for an engineer to come when he said he would, or who's had strange intermittent delays or brown-outs in their service, who's faced an inexplicable outage before a long-awaited football match, or who's flicked impatiently through screeds of electronic programme guide in the desperate search for a programme actually worth justiftying that hefty monthly fee, such words are something of an understatement. But let's wait and see how Virgin Media performs next year.

In the meantime, check out the really cool hard-drive based Freeview boxes in our DVD & PVR section. They're free to air, they won't cost you a monthly fee, and they're getting very good indeed. Our current fave is the Panasonic DMR-EX75. -Michael Parsons