Television and the Power of Visual Culture

Television: History of Technology
1880s: Paul Nipkow experiments with
mechanical disk television; leads to
1926: John Logie Baird (U.K) invents first
practical television.
1927: Simultaneous development of electronic
television by Farnsworth
(scanning process)
and Zworykin (cathode ray tube).
Television: History of Technology
Philo Farnsworth, Fort Wayne
Resident, 1939-mid 1940s
Farnsworth House on
East State Boulevard
Television: History of Technology
1941: National Television Systems Committee
adopts 525-line resolution for U.S. broadcast
television. This standard is only now being
replaced by Digital Television (DTV) and High
Definition Television (HDTV).
1948-1952: FCC freezes new station licenses.
1952: The “freeze” ends and the two band
system adopted: Very High Frequency (VHF),
from 2-13 and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) 1483, later reduced to 14-70.
NOTE: The FM band was assigned in the gap
between VHF channel 6 and channel 7.
Television: The 1950s
1. Television replaces radio as the national mass
medium: programming, celebrities, and use of
leisure time.
2. Influence of Sylvester “Pat” Weaver (NBC):
spot advertising replaces sponsorship, daypart
programming (Today and Tonight shows), and
3. The establishment of the three commercial
networks (stable until mid-1980s).
4. Quiz show scandals: The end of innocence
5. Influence of Desi Arnez: filming live
television series to enable reruns.
Television: The 1960s-1970s
1. The dominance of television news: the
Kennedy assassination, the space race, the civil
rights struggles, and the Vietnam War.
2. The dominance of television entertainment:
mostly situation comedies and dramatic series.
3. By 1966, network television coverts totally to
color (Last monochrome network television
series was The Avengers).
4. The mini-series (1970s): Rich Man, Poor
Man and Roots
Television: Technology, 1970-2000s
1. 1976: The creation of super stations from local
independent television stations (Ted Turner, WTBS).
2. Development of home video taping: Betamax (Sony)
and VHS (JVC). By 19179, home taping is allowed
by Supreme Court decision: “Time-shifting”
3. Competition from cable systems, microwave systems
(wireless cable), and satellite delivery (C and Ku
4. Digital television : Requires reassignment of the
spectrum: DTV/HDTV Scam
5. Recordable DVD
6. TIVO/Hard drive recording: digital timeshifting
Television: Regulation and Competition
•Prime Time Access Rule (PTAR), 1970: Limited networks
programming in prime time.
•Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (FinSyn):
Prohibited networks from financial interest in their
programs and from subsequent participation in offnetwork distribution of those programs. These rules were
rescinded in 1995-96.
•1987: The Fox network emerges as viable competition,
although not classified as a network and this able to avoid
the above limitations. United Paramount (UPN) and
Warner Brothers (WB) appeared in the 1990s and merged
in 2006 to form the CW.
Television: Economics
•Prime Time Production: Based on deficit financing. Network
licensing fees do not cover total production cost: profit comes
from off-network syndication.
•Networks own some stations (limited now to 35% of the
population). Affiliates are contractually obligated to air
network programs, but are independent of the networks
•First run syndication: Independently produced programs
sold on a market-by-market basis (such as Oprah and Xena:
Princess Warrior. May be cash sale, barter, or cash and barter.
Stripping: syndicated programs aired five times per week at
the same time.
Television: Economics
Ratings and Shares:
The cost of advertising time is based mostly on the
rating and share of that time slot (generated by the
Rating = % of Total Television Homes (TT)
(This figure will always be less the 100% total
for the time slot: not everyone has a tv set on)
Share = % of Homes Using Television (HUT)
(This figure must total 100% for all programs
in the time slot)