Television: An International History

Television: An International History

Television: An International History

Television: An International History

Synopsis

Television, long regarded as mere entertainment, is now being seriously considered for its significance in all our lives. The crusading "60 Minutes" has become the archetype of the news program acting in the public interest; the irreverent zaniness of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" has permanently changed our view of the world--if only our view of how silly it can be; and MTV has irrevocably altered the popular music scene. Of course, C-SPAN revolutionized the public view of Congress, and without CNN the Gulf War would have been a far different experience--indeed, without the close-up coverage of the war in Vietnam, our opinions about war itself would be far different. Now, in Television: An International History, the first illustrated history of our most influential cultural phenomenon, readers will find an invaluable resource that covers the whole expanse of the medium, from Africa to Australia, from Burbank to Bangkok, covering news, sports, drama, comedy, and more. Written by a distinguished team of specialists, Television describes the history of T.V. from its technical conception in the nineteenth century right through the bewildering multimedia developments of the present. Alongside this historical account, chapters provide an important discussion of the central debates affecting television worldwide, from technological developments to programming (how it differs around the world, and how it has evolved over the years), and from television's impact on society (including questions of violence and social standards) to television's relationship to terrorism. Television has been seen as simply yet another market, and as a social tool; it has been condemned, controlled, and (rarely) praised as a social good. Yet, in many ways, television has shaped modern culture, and social life now revolves around entertainment in the home in a way unthinkable sixty years ago, forcing us to examine such questions as: How have viewing practices affected our homes? How do we arrive at fair standards of taste and decency? And how does government influence television? For example, will the role of public service broadcasting drastically change, or altogether disappear, as Congress considers slashing its funding? Vividly illustrated and accessibly written, Television is a major exploration of the world's most dominant and defining medium. It will intrigue anyone interested in its early beginnings, its impact on our society, and its not-so-distant future.

Excerpt

In the opening programme of the world's first regular public service of television in 1936, an entertainer sang: 'The air has eyes that scan us from the skies | And ears that listen from the blue. . . So you needn't roam | From your own happy home, | The world will pass you in review.' Television had been one of the nineteenth century's confident predictions of the twentieth but it still took many decades of the new century to reach fruition and only in the second half of that century has it become a global phenomenon. But when it arrived it exercised an unanticipated and transforming influence: political life in democracies and non-democracies alike was thoroughly altered under the impact of television; a new 'consumer' economy came to depend upon it; in the sphere of culture it became the vehicle of the all-pervading Westernizing influences of the century. The world indeed 'passed in review', but television led to a kind of secondary environment of images in which we all now have to live.

As the twentieth century ends television is itself undergoing a technological and institutional transmutation, so thorough as to baffle or confound its own surviving pioneers and founders. Between the 1950s and the 1990s television was organized as a regulated and essentially national medium dependent on the scarce resource of electromagnetic frequencies. At the end of the era it is becoming a medium of abundance, with hundreds of satellite and cable channels becoming available (in some countries) in every home; these new sources of images, passing through new technologies and produced by a new generation of remarkably cheap miniaturized equipment, are emerging from jurisdictions outside the receiving countries. Television is becoming, at its roots, international, prolific, regulated lightly if at all. Television once provided the concen-

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