Chapter8- The RiseofBroadcastTelevision (1946-1959)
Television took longer than film to develop due to technological hurdles that had to be
Television was closely connected to the radio industry from which it sprang. Broadcast
WWII put a hold on any immediate development of the medium. Many engineers
working for themajorequipmentmanufacturerswere expectedtousetheir expertise in
Post WWII era of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s was period in which consumerism
reallytook off.The riseoftelevision andtherise ofconsumerismwereintertwined.
Debate about whether television, like radio, would become a medium for
entertainmentor an educationaltool.
Institutionswith considerable financial resources carried out the setting up of anational
systemfor broadcast(itwasprohibitivelyexpensive proposition).
2 major industry groupings, RCA-NBC & CBS, had developed television systems that
operated in a different range of frequencies. RCA-NBC pushed for the adoption of black
and white broadcasting in VHF (Very High Frequency) band of frequencies while CBS
wantedtoestablishcolor broadcasting in the UHF(Ultra High Frequency) band.
Mid 1940’s, the FCC ruled in favor of the VHS band and thereby ensured RCA-NBC’s
early domination of the television industry. Consequence of this adoption was the
restriction on the number of television stations that could operate in a given
geographical area, thereby reinforcing the oligopolistic character of the early television
Limited number of broadcasting frequencies in the VHF band was hindering the
development of television and limiting the growth of the number of television stations.
Another problem was included interference caused by placing television station
frequencies too close together. For this reason FCC froze the issuing of new licenses to
television broadcastersfrom1948to1952sothat this problemcouldbe resolved.
Once the freeze was removed, new licenses were issued to stations operating both the
VHF and UHF bands. By the 1950’s, television manufacturers began making TV
receiversthat couldcapture signalson bothbands.
Another technical limitation of early TV was the fact that most shows were done live.
Only other option before the invention of videotape (in 1956) was filming programs for
broadcast,butthiswasnotdone frequentlybecause ofthehigher costsinvolved.
Proponentsofnon-profitandeducationalbroadcasting sufferedin 1934 andtook along
time to overcome. This defeat happened when Congress rejected the Wagner-Hatfield
Bill, which would have set aside 25% of broadcast frequencies for non-profit
National broadcasting system was a very expensive proposition. Establishment of
television in most other countries became an endeavor of the state; governments
established the first national television networks. A good example is England where the
BBC began broadcasting television on an experimental basis as early as 1932. US did
notfollow theexample ofother countries.
There was a strong lobby on the part of a few radio conglomerates and related business
that held out for a private broadcast system that stressed entertainment over education. They wanted no interference from government as they pursued a system
that would be financed by commercial advertising rather than by government based
taxation orlicensing fees.
As a result, the financing of the development of broadcast television in the US was
undertaken by the commercial radio networks already established. This was done
primarily by RCA and its subsidiary NBC, as well as by CBS. These companies had
alreadyestablishedan oligopolisticstructurein radiosimilartotheone foundin thefilm
industry at the time, and they were successful in preventing the widespread
Television, as these people saw it, was like a radio, a means of selling products with
some entertainmentthrown in tofilloutthetime between ads.
1947- 60,000TVsetsin theentirecountry,2/3ofthemin NYCity.
September 1947- 3,000 of the 47,000 sets in NYC were operating in bars; the rest were
located in home of high-income families; however, because the TV sets in bars
attracted many moreviewers per setthan those in private homes, the overall audiences
Early television programming was produced based on what the industry thought these
two groups would like to watch: sports and news programming for the bar crowd and
seriousdramaticprogramsfor theaffluentNew Yorkers