Say Hello To The New TV Same As The Old TV
By Anthony J. Mountjoy | Sat, 02 Jul 2016 08:00:00 EST
Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the first television broadcast at the New York World's Fair in 1939. While the event would turn out to be a watershed, television wasn't really all that special -- people could get their news and entertainment through other media (such as radio, film, and the newspaper).
In fact, television's only real benefit [to the people] was its immediacy combined with pictures. Despite this lack of any real benefit and its high cost (over $4000 for a TV in today's dollars), television took off.
And over the years, television has seen a number of innovations: colour was introduced in 1954 (though would not become widespread for another decade); the remote control was introduced in 1955 (and has been encouraging people to become "couch potatoes" ever since); digital sets were introduced in 1998 (forcing people to replace sets that probably could have kept working for years); glasses-free 3D sets were introduced in 2010 (only to be replaced by curved screens a few years later).
While many of the technical innovations
have certainly made TV "better", they've also also forced people into continually buying new televisions. Although this could be justified if we were getting some value for our money, what are we really getting from television (that we can't get elsewhere)? Walter Cronkite, for example, was considered "the most trusted man in America" because of the quality of his reporting. And after Uncle Walter's retirement, the quality of mainstream news reporting declined so much that John Stewart --a fake newsman-- became one of the better sources of news. The quality of most entertainment on TV is equally abysmal.
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The poor quality of television content today shouldn't be too surprising, and is really a product of television's early success. One of the effects of television is that it can help to unify a people culturally. This was particularly true when there were only two or three channels. (With such a small number of viewing options, you end up watching what everyone else does. And because the content has to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to be profitable, there's a good chance that, with sufficient repetition, you'll be dragged down to the new level, which brings down the lowest common denominator...) And even if the number of channels proliferate (as we've seen happen), there's a good chance that quality will suffer, either because there's so much imitation across channels and there's nothing "new", and/or because the audience may be too small to adequately support creators.
The poor quality of most television content, combined with a business model that interrupts customers' viewing experience with largely irrelevant advertisements and alternative content sources, is leading to a decline in television viewing. This is probably a good thing since, despite its potential for supporting progress and helping to elevate us, television has really led to the dumbing down of society as a whole. It's time that we demand (and get) to experience better content rather than some new over-priced features that end up robbing us and leaving us empty.
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