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Chapter 5

Chapter 5 Notes: Television and Cable: The Power of Visual Culture

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MMC 2604
Mariam Alkazemi

MMC2604 Chapter 5 Notes 10/1/13 o The Origins and Development of Television o Early Innovations in TV Technology  In the late 1800s, the invention of the cathode ray tube, the forerunner of the TV picture tube, combined principles of the camera and electricity  In the 1880s, German inventor Paul Nipkow developed the scanning disk, a large flat metal disk with a series of small perforations organized in a spiral pattern.  Electronic Technology: Zworykin and Farnsworth  The story of television’s invention included a complex patents battle between inventors Vladimir Zworykin and Philo Farnsworth  In 1923, Zworykin invented the iconoscope, the first TV camera tube to convert light rays into electrical signals, and he received a patent for it in 1928  In 1927, Farnsworth transmitted the first electronic TV picture: He rotated a straight line scratched on a square of painted glass by 90 degrees  In 1930, Farnsworth received a patent for the first electronic television  Setting Technical Standards  In 1941 the FCC adopted an analog standard for all U.S. TV sets  The U.S. continued to use analog signals until 2009, when they were replaced by digital signals  Assigning Frequencies and Freezing TV Licenses  In the 1940s, the FCC began assigning channels in specific geographic areas to make sure there was no interference  The FCC declared a freeze on new licenses from 1948 to 1952  By the mid-1950s, there were more than 400 television stations in operation  Today, about 1700 TV stations are in operation  The Introduction of Color Television  In 1952, the FCC tentatively approved an experimental CBS color system  In 1954, RCA’s color system usurped CBS’s system to become the color standard  It wasn’t until 1966 that the Big Three networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) broadcast their entire evening lineups in color o Controlling Content: TV Grows Up  Program Format Changes Inhibit Sponsorship  In the early 1950s, the broadcast networks became unhappy with the lack of creative control because of sponsors  In 1953, Sarnoff appointed Sylvester “Pat” Weaver as the president of NBC o Increased program length from 15 minutes to 30 minutes or longer, substantially raising program costs for advertisers  The introduction of two new types of programs, the magazine format and the TV spectacular, greatly helped the networks gain control over content  The magazine program featured multiple segments (news, talk, comedy, and music) similar to the content in a magazine o In January 1952, NBC introduced the Today show as a three-hour morning talk-news program o September 1954: NBC premiered the 90-minute Tonight Show  The television spectacular is today recognized as the television special  The Ruse and Fall of Quiz Shows  In 1955, CBS aired the $64,000 Question  Prime time: airing between 8 & 11 pm, the hours when networks draw their largest audiences and charge their highest advertising rates  By 1958, 22 quiz shows aired on network television  Most of the quiz shows were rigged (Most notorious was on Twenty-One)  Charles Van Doren was the show’s most infamous contestant  The Quiz-Show Scandal Hurts the Promise of TV  Sponsors’ roles in creating television content ended  The fraud undermined Americans’ expectation of the democratic promise of television  They magnified the division between “high” and “low” culture attitudes toward television  In 1999, ABC gambled that the nation was ready once again for a quiz show in prime time (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) o The Development of Cable o Most historians mark the period from the late 1950s, when the networks gained control over TV’s content, to the end of the 1970s as the network era (the time when the Big Three broadcast networks dictated virtually every trend in programming) o CATV: Community Antenna Television  The first small cable systems called CATV, or community antenna television, originated in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and NYC  Two big advantages of cable:  By routing and reamplifying each channel in a separate wire, cable eliminated over-the-air interference  Running signals through coaxial cable increased channel capacity o The Wires and Satellites behind Cable Television  In 1945, Arthur C. Clarke published the original theories for a global communications system based on three satellites equally spaced from each other, rotating with the earth’s orbit  In 1960, AT&T launched Telstar, the first communication satellite capable of receiving, amplifying, and returning signals  By the mid 1960s, scientists figured out how to lock communication satellites into geosynchronous orbit  Launch of domestic communications satellites: Canada’s Anik in 1972 and the U.S.’s Westar in 1974  With cable, TV signals are processed at a computerized nerve center, or headend  Headend computers relay channels through trunk and feeder cables attached to utility poles  Signals are then transmitted to drop or tap lines that run from the utility poles into subscribers’ homes  The first cable network to use satellites for regular transmission of TV programming was Home Box Office (HBO) o Cable Threatens Broadcasting  The cable era introduced narrowcasting: the providing of specialized programming for diverse and fragmented groups o Cable Services  Basic Cable Services  Basic cable: includes a hundred-plus channel lineup composed of local broadcast signals, access channels, regional PBS stations, and a variety of cable channels o Superstations: independent TV stations uplinked to a satellite such as WGN in Chicago  Premium Cable Services  Special channels are known as premium channels o Include pay-per-view, video-on-demand, etc. o DBS: Cable without Wires  Direct broadcast satellite (DBS): transmits its signal directly to small satellite dishes near or on customers’ homes  1978: Japanese companies started the first DBS system in Florida o Major Programming Trends o Los Angeles and New York came to represent the two major branches of TV programming: entertainment and information o TV Entertainment: Our Comic Culture  The networks began to move entertainment to LA partly because of the success of I Love Lucy  Prior to the days of videotape (invented in 1956), the only way to preserve a live broadcast was through a technique called kinescope (a film camera recorded a live TV show off a studio monitor)  Sketch Comedy  Sketch comedy: short comedy skits  Variety series are more expensive to produce than sitcoms  Situation Comedy  Situation comedy: sitcom, features a recurring cast, each episode establishes a narrative situation, complicates it, develops increasing confusion, and then resolves it  Characters are usually static and predictable  Domestic Comedy  Domestic comedy: characters and settings are usually more important than complicated predicaments  Greater emphasis on character development  Take place primarily at home, at the workplace, or both  May also mix dramatic and comedic elements o TV Entertainment: Our Dramatic Culture  Anthology Drama  Anthology Drama: brought live dramatic theater to television  Teleplays: scripts written for television  Ended for both economic and political reasons o Advertisers disliked them because they presented stories containing complex human problems that were not easily resolved o A change in audience o Expensive to produce o Dealt seriously with the changing social landscape, labeled “politically controversial”  Episodic Series  Episodic series: main characters continue from week to week, sets and locales remain the same, and technical crews stay with the program. Come in two types: chapter shows and serial programs  Chapter Shows: self-contained stories with a recurring set of main characters who confront a problem, face a series of conflicts, and find a resolution  Serial programs: open-ended episodic shows, story lines continue from episode to episode o Soap operas are the longest running serial programs o Hybrid: combined elements of both chapter and serial television by featuring some plots that were reso
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