How has television changed over the last 25-50 years? This question can be answered in a variety of different ways ranging from the technological changes and advances it has gone through to the question of whether it has any type of affects on the way people perceive it, or if society is manipulated by what they see on television. This report will hopefully uncover and discover television then and now.
The first aspect that will be uncovered are the technological advances that television has made over the years. Naturally to see into this, we must look to how television originated. Television broadcasting was first introduced in 1936 when it was available in London. It was not until 1954 when the FCC authorized the NTSC standard for color television broadcast in the United States. The question raised at this point is what was the television actually like? How many channels were available? Naturally the availability of what we have today was unthought of and in most cases seemed impossible, but most television sets were capable of providing atleast up to four basic channels. However, these channels were only received clearly in larger cities. It was very difficult for television signals to pass through the mountains and rural areas. In order to resolve the problem what is known as cable television was introduced in 1948. The purpose of cable television was to be able to bring existing broadcast signals to rural areas with community antennas placed at high elevations, usually on mountains or on top of tall poles. Since the invention of cable television, it has grown rapidly. By 1960, there were nearly 700 cable systems. In 1971, 2,750 systems were serving almost 6 million homes. Now in the year 1999, the number has risen to more than 65 million. Of course, the invention of cable television was by far if not the only major technological development for television in the early days of television. Today, cable still continues to advance with new developments with satellites. There are over 80 different channels available to cable subscribers ranging from 24 hour music channels, 24 hour movie channels, and 24 hour news channels, and 24 news channels. In addition to being able to have these types of channels, pay television services or better known as premium channels are also associated with the advancement of cable television. These services offer a variety of popular movies, original programming and sports without commercial interruption. Soon after this, interactive television evolved. Interactive TV describes a range in two-way communication services between service providers and end users. Finally, direct broadcast satellites were introduced to further expand cable television. Direct TV and Primestar are just a few companies associated with direct broadcast satellites.
It is clearly easy to figure out that television has and will continue to advance. Now that a few various technological advances and developments have been described, they must be tied into what is most important, and that is how viewer perception and societal influence has been changed from television changing over the past 25-50 years.
The main change in television has become the command center of our culture. Because television is quite different from other media such as film, theater, or music, it must be examined carefully and more in depth. People go to movies to watch movies, they go to the theaters to watch plays, and they buy music to listen to it, etc. However, we go to television for almost everything. Politics, literature, music, religion, news, commerce, you name it and television has it. Therefore, this makes us known as “television people”, because for anything to be legitimate, it has to come through television. Has American society become so dependent on television that in order to be an “American”, you have to watch television in order to make contact with whatever is happening in the culture to be familiar with what is on the television? In other words, if we didn’t have television, do you think that people wouldn’t know what was going on or people wouldn’t be able to follow events that we see on television? If this is the case, then how did people get by before television’s invention?
Television also presents us with experience in symbolic form. Is this preferable to what we used to call reality? For example, take when Mark McGuire broke the record for the most home runs, the people who were at the game to actually witness go down in the history books probably wanted to see it on television because if they didn’t, they probably would feel a sense of loss and disappointment with the reality of it because this actually did happen to them before it was on television.
The next issue of concern is whether or not there is a consequence of image taking over from the word in television? What essentially is the danger in images being more important than words? The images or language of television is changing the world, because it is changing our minds, our thinking, our feelings, and even our way of relating to other people and to the world. When there is an image culture, politics per say, we see this in debates, as well as in elections. People are so far concerned with what these candidates do in their spare time rather than whether or not they will do well for our country? However, is it the people to blame, or should what media decides to air be blamed? Without the media, how would people really now what the candidates or president does in his or her spare time? We would never know, and it really isn’t important. Therefore, the media manipulates the way we view political leaders. They make us form our opinions by what they tell us and what we hear through the television medium. Society in the same sense has relied too heavily on the media for depicting images. We are more concerned about the way a politician looks and dresses, their personal life, rather than how they will lead the country. Also, we are more concerned with watching our presidents eat jelly beans in press conferences, watching our president play football on the beach, or watching our president lie to America about his sexual affairs, instead of wondering what type of things they have done or what they will do as president. Wars, I believe are much more important than the personal lives of our leaders. I also believe that people are so into television that they tend to forget that a war will affect their life, more than a jar of jelly beans.
The next question is has television changed in a sense that news broadcasts are strictly to make money? When we look back 25 years ago, most news departments were not expected to make money. It was not expected to make money if anything it was expected to lose money, but to them that was never a problem or an issue. However, that today has changed. News is one of the biggest money making divisions in any television network. It really does sound like television advancement has created a lot of problems rather than made our lives easier. And as we look in to the future, what will television be like both through a technological sense and perception wise, as it pertains to society? Will there be a consequence of our news being delivered in a theatrical way? It could just possibly be that Americans would simply become the most ill informed people in the world. There is sadly some evidence that this may already be the case.
Has technological developments in television such as cable; etc, affected the way society operates. Did these types of problems exist before all the technology developed? Can we blame it on technology or can we blame it on society and media? Media indeed takes a huge role in the way society is affected by television. However, media is not going anywhere and they do not plan on going anywhere, so how can the problem be solved?
Finally in concluding, as time advances, so does technology, however it is up to us as a society to make a positive use of it. Much of this talk on technology is full of negativity, but it is only because we let it get that way. Why? Surely television has changed in the past 25-50 years and it will change in another 25-50 years, as will all forms of media. All and all, society in general needs to stop relying on television and forming opinions by what they see and hear as a way of day to day living, because that is what is seems like we are letting happen. People are relying too much on these technological advances that they can no longer do for themselves. If we took away all the advances and developments and went back to the way it was when it was first invented what would it be like? We would probably have opinions based on values and not on perception.