Although most VCR's can be programmed to record at different times on different channels, the latter capability is lost when the VCR is preceded by a decoder. Channel selection must be done in the decoder and normally cannot be changed when the unit is unattended. The problem is eliminated with a new remote control transmitter. The unit controls the decoder with an IR stream using well-known techniques. Containing a real-time clock, it can be programmed to turn on the decoder, tune it to any channel and then turn it off at a specified time. Multiple events can be programmed, with a different channel for each. An event can be a specific time, as for a special, it can be a specific time once a week, for a series, it can be a specific time each weekday, as for soaps, or it can be a specific time seven days a week, as for the news. The time is displayed when the unit is not being programmed. In the programming mode, the display shows a series of prompts to assist the user. The unit also serves as a hand-held remote control.