As I've said earlier, I've been reading the letters of C. S. Lewis. Writing around 1953, he explains, in one of his letters, why he chooses not to buy a TV (it causes people to spend so much of their time huddled in front of it, to the exclusion of doing other things, like reading or taking walks), and he wonders at the way in which such items as TV's become seen as "necessities." He mentions a current cost-of-living survey that included the cost of financing a TV as part of one of life's necessities (again, this is c. 1953, when TV's were still in their infancy, and at a time when some more basic articles, like sugar and stationery, were still subject to a post-World War II rationing regime).
I am now in the situation where I "need" a new TV, assuming I need one at all. My current TV, a hand me down from a friend from a couple years ago, now turns off at random moments and needs to, I guess, cool down or something for 5 minutes before I can watch it again. It turns off more frequently when I watch DVD's (apparently the DVD technology is too much for this 1997 television).
But do I "need" a TV? There were times of my life where I was without a TV and although I sometimes missed it, I survived and thrived. In fact, to the extent that I "need" TV to stay informed, I could watch most of my news programs online (the Newshour, Chicago Tonight, Washington Week, Inside Washington, etc., are almost all available for free).
Of course, this is the internet age. Some times in the past when I had no TV were, at least for me, pre-internet. There were still, of course, newspapers, but I didn't read them that much. I remember one day in April, 1993 seeing headlines in a local Fort Collins paper (where I was an undergrad) with a huge complex and a companion picture of Janet Reno claiming "responsibility" for it. It was still only days later that I learned about what had gone on at Waco, even though the stand-off had been going on for weeks.
All that, of course, is prelude to saying that I have access to the internet now and that the added expense of a TV is even less arguably necessary for me (I would know about the next Waco within minutes of it happening; of course, I hope it never happens again). Whether access to the internet is a "necessity" is a trickier issue. I probably get as much of my news from reading blogs as from the news shows I mentioned above. (I also get an undisclosed proportion of my news through yahoo! links and AP releases, although I do not always look at them with an appropriately critical eye.) Also, access to email is, if not a "necessity," something that is very helpful for an aspiring yuppie like myself (how old does one have to be before one is no longer a young urban professional?) Finally, my dissertation-writing process is helped by regular access to the internet: I do a non-trivial amount of my primary source research online (through databases of newspapers that would be otherwise difficult or impossible to access here in Chicago); I also have, through my university's library website, access to a wealth of articles from academic journals (previously, I would have had to spend valuable dollars making copies of articles that I would never read; now I can skip a step in the process and simply download those same articles as pdf files before I don't read them).
The short answer (now that I've given the long answer) is that I really don't "need" a TV.