Short lectures in Media History
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Short lectures in Media History. Chapter Nine Television Classroom use only . TV: wires & lights in box .

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Short lectures in media history

Short lectures in Media History

Chapter Nine


Classroom use only

Tv wires lights in box

TV: wires & lights in box

  • If there are any historians about 50 or 100 years from now... they will find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live... This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box...

    • -- Edward R. Murrow, 1958

Tv was anticipated for decades

TV was anticipated for decades

1880 – TV in the future, by French artist Albert Robida

Philo t farnsworth

Philo T. Farnsworth

In 1920, at age 14, Farnsworth showed his high school chemistry teacher a design for an electronic television.

  • Farnsworth envisioned a system using electronic beams that could scan across and light up phosphorous dots on the back of a glass screen. The signals for the beams and the audio could be broadcast as FM radio signals.

  • He demonstrated the system in 1928, but found competition from RCA / Westinghouse engineer Vladimir Zworykin.

  • A patent fight between was eventually decided in Farnsworth’s favor based on the sketch he did for his teacher in 1920.

Rca announces tv in 1939

RCA announces TV in 1939

RCA executive David Sarnoff announces the birth of television at the World’s Fair in New York, April 20, 1939, calling it a “torch of hope in a troubled world.”

Transition from radio to TV was not always so easy or hopeful: “The notion that a picture was worth a thousand words meant, in practice, that footage of Atlantic City beauty winners… was considered more valuable than a thousand words… on the mounting tensions in Southeast Asia.” -- historian Erik Barnouw.

Tv widely adopted 1950s

TV widely adopted 1950s

  • 1952, one-third of all homes (15 million) had TV sets. Within a decade, nearly every home had a TV.

  • Color technology could have come online in the 1940s …

  • FCC chose NBC system over CBS

    • NBC had lower quality system but

    • high-powered lobbying from Sarnoff

  • Color TV finally arrives early 1960s

Political ads on tv

Political ads on TV

Early political advertising seems primitive by modern standards. This ad, from 1952, helped popularize the Eisenhower campaign.

Commercial ads on tv

Commercial ads on TV

Before tobacco commercials were banned on TV, even cartoon characters told kids it was OK to smoke.

1964 -- Surgeon General report noting 7,000 studies linking smoking to cancer & heart problems

1971 – Tobacco advertising banned on TV

Other kinds of advertising are also more controlled in broadcasting than in printed publications.

Advertising to children is specially regulated.

Vast wasteland newton minow

‘Vast wasteland’ – Newton Minow

FCC Chair 1961

"When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or

newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse… a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And

most of all, boredom.”

Structure of tv system in us

Structure of TV system in US

  • Central networks encouraged 1940s

    • ABC, CBS, NBC, DuMont

  • Limits on VHF station ownership (5)

  • Expansion into UHF channels

    • Many small, underfunded, low quality

  • Cable in 1970s allowed huge expansion in number of channels

  • In 1996, ownership limits lifted

    • Limits are now % of overall market

Red scare fades under tv lights

Red scare fades under TV lights

Sen. Joseph McCarthy --

Creates “red scare” with reckless charges that elements of the government (State, CIA) dominated by communists

Edward R. Murrow, CBS --

“We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if

we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended

from fearful men….”

Sputnik launches new era 1959

Sputnik launches new era 1959

Russian satellite begins orbiting on Oct. 6, 1957

US reaction is a huge investment in space and science programs

International telecomm satellites begin 1960s

Research for internet also begins 1960s

“Young people today find it difficult to imagine how far we were … from the global view that now seems so familiar,” Raymond Frontard, ISO, 1997

Quiz show scandals 1959

Quiz show scandals 1959

“I was involved, deeply involved, in deception…” Charles Van Doren (right), quiz show contestant.

Congressional investigations in 1959 showed that answers had been provided and shows were fully scripted.

Early global village confrontation

Early global village confrontation

Moscow, 1959 – Then-US Vice

President Richard Nixon (right) pokes a finger at Russian Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchevat a US exhibit depicting the average American home with a stove, washing machine, radio and other appliances.

With television cameras

rolling, Krushchev said he didn’t think the average American could afford such a home. Nixon responded: “Diversity, the right to choose … is the most important thing.”

Kennedy nixon debates 1960

Kennedy – Nixon debates 1960

The first presidential debates on TV

Most people believed that Nixon did not come across well on television. A majority who heard the debate on radio only thought he did better than Kennedy.

Click on the picture to get an idea of what the debate was like.

The debate format was highly structured with four reporters asking questions and a fifth journalist presiding as the debate chair.

Tv vital to civil rights movement

TV vital to civil rights movement

As Gandhi noted, non-violence works best when resistance and suffering is witnessed by many people.

With TV as a witness, and the force of ethics, the constitution and logic behind the civil rights movement, laws allowing discrimination were eventually repealed, and new guarantees were put in place.

For a while, southern TV stations refused to air civil rights news. When the license at one (WLBT) was challenged, a Supreme Court justice said its conduct, along with the FCC, was “beyond repair.”

Vietnam on tv

Vietnam on TV

The traditional myth was that the “living

room war” proved too horrible for sensitive Americans and had a morale-sapping effect.

But detailed studies of TV and public opinion show a far more complex picture.

The steady drop in public support for the war seems unrelated to any

one set of events or images, but rather, to highly public national debates about its overall

purposes and conduct. These were carried in the media as a matter of course.

  • Morley Safer at Cam Ne, 1965

Pres johnson resigns 1968

Pres. Johnson resigns 1968

President Lyndon Johnson makes a surprise announcement that he will not run again for president in 1968. The impact of the televised Vietnam war, and its television critics, was a factor.

Pbs born 1968

PBS born 1968

Educational radio was sidetracked in the 1920s, and TV broadcasters were determined to avoid that.

In 1952, some 242 TV channels reserved fir educational use.

1967 Public Broadcasting Act funded PBS, but only on a year-to-year basis. (Unlike BBC in the UK)

Public-funded broadcasting is controversial – Why not just leave it to commercial TV?

But would commercial TV have created Seseme Street ?

Mcbride report 1980

McBride Report, 1980

  • Controversial UN commission

  • Observed one-way flow of informationfrom industrial to developing nations

  • Recommended more training and local media development, protection for journalists and freedom of the press

  • Said developing nations should control cultural influences from outside – US saw this as an attack on free press

Cable television

Cable television

  • First cable 1940s

  • Satellite backbone 1970s

    • Like Post Office for newspapers

    • Telegraph for wire services

    • Telephonefor radio networks

  • Superstations grew into larger organizations

    • Atlanta WTBS -> CNN

  • High market penetration by late 1980s

  • Cable companies become local monopolies

    • Cable costs grow @ 3x inflation

  • Leads to satellite TV as circumventing technology

Satellite tv rises and falls

Satellite TV rises and falls

  • Small dish direct broadcasting

    • DirecTV (1994) now 19 million subscribers

    • Dish network (1996) – now 14 million

  • By 2010, cable TV had peaked at about 60 percent of all US homes, while satellite TV had about 30 percent of the market.

  • Both are dropping rapidly in competition with broadband

Traditional tv loses audience

Traditional TV loses audience

  • 1976 -- ABC, CBS and NBC = 92%

  • 2008 – These + Fox = 46%

  • 2009 – 11 – Staff cuts at TV news organizations because there were

  • With more channels, no “scarcity rationale” for government-imposedboundaries (eg Fairness Doctrine).

  • TV news more shrill & partisan

Global village emerges

‘Global Village’ emerges

  • TV, satellites, cable, internet

  • Europe’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ of 1989

  • It“doesn’t necessarily mean harmony and peace and quiet, but it does mean huge involvement in everybody else’s affairs.” – Marshall McLuhan

  • Islamic – European tensions

    • British books (Salmon Rusdie, 1988)

    • Danish cartoons (Jyllands-Posten, 2005)

    • US minister to burn Koran (2010)

John stewart s take on murrow

John Stewart’s take on Murrow

  • “The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming-ant epidemic.

  • If we amplify everything, we hear nothing… The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker… And yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror....” (2010)

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