Television – March 18, 2014
• Television works through the idea of persistence of vision, just like film – it takes brain
1/24 of a second to process an image, so if you see 24 images in one second, it looks like
they are moving.
• Because television is transmitted through the air, unlike movies, television content
producers had to figure out how to send the pictures – break them up into tiny pixels and
then reassemble them.
• History of Television
o Early pioneers (early 20 century)
Paul Nipkow, Russian physicist, produced the Nipkow disc in 1884.As the
disc rotated slowly, it allowed people to take large pictures and break them
into smaller, component parts and play them back. The first technology to
demonstrate this reality. He only used still pictures, however, to send and
John Bard (1925), a British scientist working for BBC. In the early 1920s,
he used a technology similar to the Nipkow disk and figured out how to
transmit moving pictures (film) using a technology similar to the one
Nipkow used, a rotating disk.
People wanted to move from the rotating disk to a self-contained device
that could transmit images electronically rather than mechanically.
Vladimir Zworykin worked at Westinghouse. He was attempting to
develop an electronic device (aka a vacuum tube) that could do the exact
same thing that Bard was doing with the spinning disk. David took
Zworykin away from Westinghouse and hired him for RCA. In 1929,
Zworykin’s kinescope, a highly developed television tube, was developed.
This was going on on the East Coast.
On the West Coast, Philo Farnsworth, a 12-year-old kid, was reading
science journals and developed a model for the television tube. He
presented it at a science fair, and his teacher sent him to Brigham Young to
work on it. By age 15 in 1929, Farnsworth had developed an early
television model. RCAand Farnsworth battled over patents until the late
‘30s, when Farnsworth’s patents expired. RCAbought all of his patents for
1 million dollars and erased his name from television history, even though
all he had really wanted was credit, to be called “the father of television.”
In April 1939, RCAgave the first true public demonstration of television
at the New York World’s Fair. Beginning in 1939, RCAbroadcast a two-hour variety show once a week
to the few people who had purchased televisions (not many – they were
very expensive and came with only 3 and 5 inch screens).
• Television evolves (late 1940s to present)
Two licenses for broadcast television stations were given out in 1941.
Because WWII started this year, the further development of television
slowed down during the ‘40s.
• The FCC governs broadcast television for the same reason it
governs radio – there is spectrum scarcity. The public owns the air
waves, and the government leases them to stations.
When WWII ended, there were nine stations with broadcast licenses, and
only six of them actually broadcast on air.
Immediately after WWII, there was a huge flood of applications to the
FCC to open stations.After it distributed these licenses, it realized that
there were a lot of problems and specifics in the television industry that
had not been fixed. So, it imposed what is known as the FCC Television
Freeze. It was supposed to be only six months, but it lasted from 1948 to
• The big issues that needed to be resolved were interference,
assigning channels (frequency allocation, how much signal power
each station was allowed to have, who should have what channels,
how many stations could be in each area), color TV standards
(introduced in 1954), and educational television guaranteed.
o RCAdeveloped an electronic technology that allowed color
to be viewed.
o CBS developed a technology of little spinning wheels that
would work mechanically inside the television box and
allow color to be added.
o The FCC originally decided that all TVs would have to
conform to the CBS model, but then it changed its mind
and said that all color TVs had to go by the RCAmodel.
o Color television wasn’t adopted en masse until the 1960s
and 1970s, because they were much more expensive, and
you could still receive the signal in black and white with a
regular TV. Black and white televisions were completely
out by the early 1980s in the U.S. o People (especially teachers, religious groups, parents, some
congressmen) worried that television wasn’t working in the
public’s interest, convenience, and necessity, so just like in
radio, the FCC began allocating what were noncommercial,
educational channels. They were called public television –
today, this is like PBS (Public Broadcasting Services) and
others. These types of stations address current events,
public affairs, art, music, etc.
Still today, for every four commercial stations
allocated, one public station must be allocated.
In the 1980s, stations like Disney and Nickelodeon
developed and took some of the market of
educational TV for children away from public
television, but for a long time, public television was
the only place educational programming could be
• There was originally space for only 12 broadcast channels (2-13)
on the VHF, but the FCC quickly realized that this was not enough
room for all the people who wanted to broadcast, so it asked the
government if it could have more of the electromagnetic waves.
The government said yes and let it have the UHMF, which
provided about 70 more broadcast channels. (The actual channels
the signals are broadcast on as assigned by the government, not the
channels that people access that are assigned randomly by
• There was a big push for early networks to have their affiliates on
very low channels (not broadcast ones, but the assigned ones)
because early televisions could only receive channels 2-13.
• In 1952, there were 108 stations; in 1959, 559 stations.
• By 1960, 90% ofAmerican homes had a TV. By 1965, 95%. This
had a lot to do with the previous bullet point – the increasing
number of stations.
• Television stole a lot of radio’s talent – asked stars from radio to
develop their shows for television. So, early on, TV content was
similar to the genres that were on radio – quiz shows, dramas,
• There were some new types of shows developed that hadn’t been
on radio before – talk shows, made-for-TV movies. Eventually,
made-for-the-big-screen movies were played on TV, too. • Growing importance of television news – news became incredibly
important to help establish the credibility of television as a medium
in the U.S.
o McCarthy’s Red Scare (Senate hearings), book written by
congressmen called The Red Channels about networks that
supposedly consisted of many communist people.
Television also helped stop the Red Scare, too –
Edward R. Murrow (CBS) did a TV broadcast on
his popular news show See It Now, exposing how
McCarthy was taking things out of context and was
creating a huge witch hunt for no reason. Then, en
masse, fear of communism diminished.
Sixty Minutes came out of See It Now.
o Social movements – the Civil Rights Movement and the
Vietnam War. Television helped advance the CRM and war
protests because the images that people saw broadcast on
the nightly news helped inform them and caused them to
think differently. Images of violence especially helped spur
the CRM and protests against the violence of the Vietnam
o These uses of television also helped it gain a more
favorable view in the eyes of the public – they saw that it
didn’t necessarily have to make kids dumber or broadcast
• Advertising changed – quiz show scandal. Sole sponsorship was
the way that advertising was done in early radio and in early
television. (Camel, Oldsmobile sponsoring CBS) The quiz shows
changed this – they started selling off many shorter commercial
spots to the highest bidders because people were skeptical that
advertisers were going to give certain people the answers again to
try to make their products more popular. (shift from sole
sponsorship to spot advertising)
• The brand supporting the show was the brand that was
manipulating the answers. So, the networks saw this an
opportunity for them to start making entertainment shows as
opposed to news and sports that they had done. They decided that
instead of sole sponsorship, they would have blocks of
commercials at the beginning, middle, and end, and sell these spots to the highest bidders. (Spot advertising – the same model used
• People were very angry that quiz shows had given the contestants
answers – There was a Senate hearing, and game shows were
banned from television until the 1960s because of the fear that
answers would be given to certain contestants to try to manipulate
ad sales and would manipulate theAmerican people and their
• As soon as one group’s name was taken off the product, quality
could slip a little because the network was a much vaguer industry
than, for example, Proctor and Gamble soap. So, less focus on
quality, more on ratings.
• The measurement of ratings to help advertisers target specific
demographics of audiences became much more important.
• Television also became much more formulaic.
• Production advanced: I Love Lucy
o Lucille Ball was a radio star with My Favorite Husband on
CBS radio network. When TV became popular, they
wanted her to convert her show to TV. She said okay, but
with a three stipulations – DesiArnaz play her TV husband,
three cameras be used in the production instead of one and
shoot to film so that it can be edited for reaction shots from
one character to another, she didn’t want to shoot in NY but
in Hollywood because that’s where the best filmmakers
were and that was where she lived. CBS said no, so she and
Desi created Desilu Studios and created the show
themselves. They ended up selling it back to CBS and
making a lot of money because the show was so popular.
o How did the show change the TV industry?
It was the first show shoot to film.
They could film the shows whenever they