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    Study Reminders

    Welcome dear participants, in this module we would look at television, what are the technological backgrounds of this particular medium, what are the cultural repercussions of television and how have the theoreticians look at this particular medium. Television is centrally concerned with the representation of people in a visual manner. Unlike radio which we had discussed in the previous module, we find that television is based on a visual representation of people. Even though it comes very close to the medium of films, we find that the conventions of television are primarily different from those of the film medium. A very primary difference can be understood in the sense that in TV programs audience have a more prolonged association with characters because the format of TV programs is necessarily longer than that of a film whereas a film has a compulsion of a very limited time. We find that in television the program has a better flexibility in terms of time. So in TV programs we find that the audience gets a better opportunity to become more familiar with the characters. And therefore they can also identify in a more cohesive manner with the characters of the program. At the same time, we find that most of the TV programs are actually closer to the lived life of the audience in comparison to the majority of the films. At the same time, we find that the programs convey a polysemy of interpretations. As the characters do not only represent their own self or an individual, but at the same time they are also representatives of certain collective social values and therefore we find that the TV programs also depict not only a single storyline but at the same time certain collective values; however, because of the different format of a TV program because of its longer familiarity which is available to them and a better identification opportunity in terms of time, we find that the ideological dominance is more negotiable in a television program in comparison to a film. Audience can take away whatever they want to take away in a particular TV program because the very nature of interpretation in the context of a TV program is polysemic. In today's world, television has become a cultural agent. It is a bearer as well as a provoker of meanings and pleasures and of culture as the generation and circulation of this variety of meanings and pleasures within society. John Fiske in his interesting book Television Culture which was published in 1988 suggests that programs convey latent meanings. There are attempts to control and focus the seeming meaningfulness into a more singular preferred meaning that aligns with the dominant ideology of a particular culture. So we find that the TV programs are also primarily concerns with the projection of a particular ideology and I quote Fiske again he says, “Television as culture is a crucial part of the social dynamics by which the social structure maintains itself in a constant process of production and reproduction”. Meanings, popular pleasures and their circulation are therefore part and parcel of this social structure. If we look at the origins of the technology, we find that it developed in the beginning of the 20th century but became an immensely popular medium by the time we entered the second half of the 20th century. Idea of a television was conceptualized before the technology appeared which was required for its production. Around 1876, George Carey anticipated complete television systems in his drawings of a selenium camera that could let people see by electricity. Ferdinand Braun’s invention of the cathode ray tube or CRT in 1897 could still be considered as a forerunner of the TV picture tube. CRT was a combination of the principles of camera and electricity and fluorescent screen emitted a visible light in the forms of images when it was hit by electrons. Paul Nipkow’s mechanical scanner system in the 1880s was another key invention in the development of this medium. In 1907, Boris Rosing created a primitive TV set by using the CRT and the mechanical scanning systems. Mechanical television and electronic televisions are the two types of television systems. Mechanical television has been developed from Nipkow’s disk system which was pioneered by John Baird and the first demonstration of a television by Baird was done in 1926. By 1932, Baird developed the first commercially feasible television system but the mechanical television which he had developed had certain limitations. The images were fuzzy and they were no more than 240 lines of resolution in it and there was an excessive flickering also. Electronic television system developed out of CRT almost concurrently in 1927 Farnsworth transmitted the first all-electronic TV picture. So we find that within a decade also mechanical television was superseded by the allelectronic TV picture. Electronic broadcast had superior picture quality; there was no noise, no disturbance in fact. The size was also compact and they were fewer visual limitations. The early broadcasting of TV programs began as early as 1928, FRC or the Federal Radio Commission allows broadcast from W3XX, an experimental station in this year. Other experimental stations also ran broadcasts throughout the early 1930s. In 1939, NBC or National Broadcasting Company introduced regular television broadcasts but these broadcast were initially transmitted to only 400 TV sets which had an audience of somewhere around 5000 to 8000 only. Very soon we find that NBC’s rival CBS also entered the market and FCC i.e. Federal Communications Commission laid down guidelines in 1941 for maintaining a single technical standard. TV sets were expensive at this time and they were sold to the elite because the common people did not have the purchasing power initially. At the same time, the Second World War deterred the development of technology. The sales were dampened because of several reasons. Partially because of a climate of depression which had continued and secondly all attention had turned to the production of military equipment and at the same time we find that most of the TV broadcasting had been shut down unless and until it was abating the war related efforts. (Refer Slide Time: 08:55) Technology for color television was envisioned around 1904 and it was also demonstrated by Baird in 1928. Baird’s 1928 designs for color technology were used by Peter Goldmark to develop the concept of a mechanical color TV but this technology did not become available until the 1950s and gained a commercial popularity only in 1960s. National television system committee of the USA began the efforts to develop an electronic color system which had to be compatible with a black and white TV sets and the first color broadcast by NBC was done in 1954. (Refer Slide Time: 09:44) As we have seen the 1930s to 1950s was considered to be a golden era of the radio technology. We find that the 1950s and 1960s can be considered as a golden era for TV. US households which had in 1950, only around 6 million TV sets, in 1960, they ended up possessing almost 60 million sets. So it became immensely popular and therefore we find that it is started to steadily replace radio as a significant medium of mass communication. As it became more and more affordable, we find that people automatically reverted to it. Early TV programs were based on the way radio showwere being conducted by the networks. In the early 1950s, we find that TV programs had borrowed from theatre to produce dramatic anthologies, to produce news, films, magazine formats and TV spectacular musical variety shows were also becoming fast popular during this time. In the beginning, TV programs were produced and financially supported by a single sponsor and this fact had given a greater control over the content. However, we find that it started to change. The program length also increased from 15 minutes to 30 minutes or even more and the frequency of airing them also grew. Instead of screening them on the weekly basis, we find that the programs came to be aired almost on a daily basis. And therefore we find that the cost of advertising also increased substantially. So we find a beginning of multiple advertisement slots of 30 to 60 seconds and it resulted in an increase in revenue for networks and we find that programs also started to be sponsored by multiple advertisers. So by mid-1950s we find that the control over the content came to be shared and a significant control which could be possible, so long there was a single sponsor for a particular TV program was diluted. (Refer Slide Time: 12:16) In 1940s, cable TV was developed to enhance reception of TV signals in remote areas as well as in rural areas. This idea gradually branched out at a national level using long distance broadcast signals. It also resulted into a number of more channels as well as a better reception and therefore it automatically created a much larger consumer base. FCC’s restrictions on cable systems at the behest of local TV stations did contain the growth of cable TV until the early 1970s but pay TV changed the fate of cable industry after gradual deregulation, the HBO or the home box office venture in 1972 which was basically a payment of fee for premium channels and video on demand products changed the scenario for the cable TV also. HBO’s use of a satellite to distribute its programming also made the network available throughout the USA and it gave an advantage over the microwave distributed services and other cable providers quickly followed suit. 1984 Cable Act resulted in an expansion of cable industry as well as a shift to satellite over microwave distribution systems. There was a upgradation in the 1990s. Fiber optic and coaxial cables changed and therefore we find that these broadband networks provided multichannel service, telephone, internet and digital video services. These technical advancements which have taken place in the western countries initially in the USA and in North European countries were taken over very easily and almost immediately after decolonization by newly formed states. Around this time, we find that there was the beginning of digital television. There was a use of analogue signals for TV receptions since the 1940s. Analogue signals reached TV sets through airwaves, cable wire or satellite transmission. There is a certain disadvantage of the analogue system also because it is a static or may result into distortion. We often find that in this system, the picture quality is rather poor and there is a visibility of a scan line as TV sets started to grow in size. Digital technology developed in response to these problems and we find that Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Services granted approval to switch from analogue to digital in 2009 resulting in drastic quality improvement. Studies tell us that 98% American households have at least one TV and a normal adult at least spend 4 hours on a daily basis looking at various TV program. Even though the number of studies in other countries are relatively less but we can imagine that the same type of impact can be found and witnessed in other countries and societies also. The most deeply penetrative mass communication apparatus fashions and constructs images and worldviews among the viewers. It is considered as one of the most influential social force, it performs significant and complex social functions in contemporary societies. We can say that it constructs culture among the masses or what is looked at is culture nowadays is often constructed by a television set. So television has come to provide what Hirsh has called is centrally produced, standardized and homogenous culture. We would look further into these arguments now. TV sets and TV programs control the structure and content not only of news and information but at the same time they also control and define what are going to be have dominant values, what are the acceptable attitudes and what ideologies are preferable in comparison to other. So we find that indirectly the television has substituted other mediums as far as a medium becoming an instrument of sociopolitical control is concerned. At the same time, we find that it promotes conformity and what Adorno and Horkheimer have said about the culture industry can also be repeated in the context of the TV culture because it does not provide us any real option. It also encourages narratives of certain ideas which are considered to be dominant in any given set of culture. For example, what should be our ideas about family or society or community? Or what constitutes law and order, what type of respect or distance we should maintain or give to the authority? These ideas are normally encouraged by the narratives of the TV programmes. Critics also say that the television as a medium is closely associated with capitalism and consumerism, rather it is a vehicle of both. The backbone of TV industry on the basis of which TV programs are run is Advertising. And it is the advertisement business which manages as well as creates demands for certain products, commodities and lifestyles. At the same time, we find that the ideas and images which are proliferated using a TV screen also become pervasive forces of socialization. They are not limited only to passing on certain information on use or to provide certain entertainment to the masses. But we find that now they have become a pervasive force of controlling our ideas by providing structured and repeated images on a 24x7 basis. Network television is also a highly profitable business. It is an economic conglomerate with vested interests in many other economic, social and political organizations. It also contributes to ritualization of politics, reinforces dominant political ideas and institutions and therefore some of the pertinent questions with which we should be concerned are whether TV provoke critical thinking among the masses or doesn’t it? Does it somehow diminish our faculty for independent critical thinking? Similarly, are our responses to television programs determined by the type of educational level and exposure we have had, was McLuhan right in suggesting that the medium determines the message and do our expectations and attitudes influence the impact of television programs? So let us look into these possible questions and also look at theoretical perceptions which had been evolved to look at the answers of these questions. It is pertinent to quote John Fiske again. John Fiske in his book Television Culture has suggested 3 levels as far as the television codes are concerned and I have taken up this information from Nicole Xavier’s essay on John Fiske’s Codes of Television. The codes which are listed are of 3 levels, the first level is reality, the second level is representation and the third level is ideology. Fiske suggests that at the primary level reality as a product of cultural codes is already encoded by various social codes and these social codes can be easily seen in our speech, in our mannerisms, in gestures, in our dress as well as in makeup and they are only electronically encoded in a TV program. These codes are used to provide semblance with a particular era with a particular portrayal of a character of a particular period. For example, simply by looking at the dress we can find out whether the scene which is being enacted belongs to our contemporary times or is it a representation of a period drama a historical scenario. At the same time, we find that the environment is created with the help of props and sceneries which are independent of the actual place where the television shooting may take place. At the second level which is the level of representation, we find that Fiske has talked about the camera movement, adjustment of angles, framing and focus, etc which are used to provide desired effect. In our discussions on the medium of film, we have already discussed these things in detail. We would point out only certain things which are peculiar in the TV course. The use of camera distance which is maintained in television is mid shot or close up. It brings the viewer into an intimate and comfortable relationship with the character who is being projected on the screen and sometimes we find that villains are usually shown in extreme close-ups and these type of shots create a sense of immediacy and intimacy between the viewer and the portrayed character and this is closer in comparison to the medium of the film. At the same time, lighting and music are also used to project moods and the average shot is of about seven seconds. At the third level of ideology, we find that television plays a very significant role. Ideologies are organized into coherence and a social acceptability by certain ideological codes. For example, the codes of individualism, patriarchy, race, class, materialism and capitalism etc. Ideology is shaped by representation and Fiske used the example of a particular TV show Heart to Heart when the criminal is caught and prosecuted and the ideology of law being supreme and the victory of good over evil is coded very subtly. At the same time, we find that the viewers are wearing social positions may constitute the programs differently and therefore the ideological impact of television is rather diluted when we compare it with the ideological impact of other mediums. Because of the longer duration of the TV program, viewers are able to establish a closer connectivity with the TV programs and certain characters. However, because of the inbuilt polysemy and the polysemic nature of the TV programs. The audience is also free to take up any coded message in which he or she is interested. Fiske’s codes of Television are still valid even though the book has been published about three decades back. We find that a show depends on the representation of some form of reality. If the audience and viewers feel that a particular show is close to their felt life, the show becomes popular and this idea is illustrated by the immense popularity of various reality shows on different TV channels. Even though these so-called reality shows are absolutely scripted. The audience is able to relate to a feeling of rawness of the show and technical courses are essential to representation and television cannot do without it. At a conscious or an unconscious level, we find that the ideology of the writer also seeps through the way a program has been structured and written, whether the audience is influenced by these ideologies or not is up to the individual ultimately, but it certainly reflects on the popularity and viewership of a particular show. (Refer Slide Time: 26:03) When we look at individual responses to television, we find that three major hypothesis have been constructed in this context. They are cultural experience hypothesis, the cultural polarization hypothesis and homogenization hypothesis. The cultural experience hypothesis suggests that the more educated the spectator is the higher the level of analytical or interpreter thinking would be while consuming a TV content. It suggest that a more educated spectator or viewer is better equipped to notice the plot developments, the technical devices, the visual codes, the interconnected nature of narrative choices. Their exposure to what constitutes serious art outside the television helps them to have a particularly informed response towards different TV programs. On the other hand, this hypothesis suggest that for the less educated, TV programs play a different role. For the less educated people, these TV programs become a source of distraction and entertainment. It may be their only escape from work and therefore it induces a more passive form of consumption and draws attention away from the content of TV percept rather they are more attentive to what is being played on the screen and their descendants about the content is not very exhausted. In the second hypothesis which is of the cultural polarization, we find that TV as a principal cultural product predicts a negative correlation between the interpretive indices and educational levels. It performs the same function for masses as drama or books or the serious art does for the elite classes. It also possess that it is likely that the audience which is less educated would pay more attention to the TV programs, may look at larger patterns in a particular TV programs in comparison to an educated viewer. The cultural polarization hypothesis thinks that the educated viewer businesses television program as merely a form of escapism and therefore ignores interpretive questions. They also draw attention to the content of TV programming. The third hypothesis that is homogenization views television as a medium of entertainment as well as relaxation. In this hypothesis, we find the television functions as a common cultural form and is evaluated in a similar manner by different educational groups. It suggest that there is no drastic difference in the interpretive responses to television across the educational spectrum. And whether a person is highly educated or not, the TV is viewed in the same manner. Neither segment, in this hypothesis watches TV with a sole intent of applying interpretive frameworks or broadening their cultural knowledge. It remains to be a medium of relaxation and entertainment only and it also suggest that all viewers are likely to evaluate the content at times, draw their own meanings and compare and contrast the content with their own knowledge of the world, their own experiences and their old cultural milieu. At the same time, we find that many contemporary critics look at television culture as being a product of the capitalist society. The development of broadcasting has caught up with the development of cultural imperialism and capitalism only. Electronic communications are used in foreign investment in military warfare as well as in propaganda and the medium of television is not an exception. At the same time, we find that these critics look at how a consumerist society has developed in the post war scenario for example Radio, TV and films have been responsible for constituting a society in a consumerist manner. They also say that there has been a mobilization of public opinion against communism during the cold war and here it would be pertinent to quote Kellner when he says, “Herbert Schiller and others have argued that American television has been instrumented in selling American values, commodities and ways of life to other countries and is thus a major force of cultural hegemony”. So we find that critics have pointed out that because of the technology supremacy and better each of its television programs, the American TV has been able to sell those values and commodities which were basically American in nature to other countries and to other cultures also and thereby they think that they lose and is a major force cultural hegemony. Critics also think that television is rooted in the economics of corporate capitalism. (Refer Slide Time: 32:04) And the development of telecommunications system has concentrated the means of communications in the hands of certain corporations and network television has a significant constituent of social processes has produced a consumerist society and we find that the ideas presented by these critics remind us of the ideas presented by Horkheimer and Adorno and we can get rephrase them. For example, when these critics suggest that network television has been a significant constituent of social processes that produce consumerist society, they want to highlight that there has been an increase in leisure time and more engagement with what is termed and pirated as popular culture popular culture. Popular culture and broadcasting are inexplicably tied in selling and creating demand for commodities through advertisements. So the idea is that advertisements create an artificial demand for different cultural products. In bombardment of commodities and images, ingenious consent for the structures and mechanism of capitalism. So we find that television is viewed as a major contemporary force whether we view it as a force for entertainment or as a leisure activity or as a particular ideology selling product. It has had a deep impact on our contemporary culture. In our next module, we would look at the social and cultural impact of television as well as films and review them from the perspective of different critical approaches. Thank you.