1

ORIGINS OF TELEVISION
Many electronic devices made the television possible, such as radio, the telephone, and I suppose you could go all the way back to Ben Franklin’s kite experiments. This is true about almost all technologies. I would like to start with a man named Philo T. Farnsworth. Farnsworth, a child of a large Mormon farm family, did not encounter electricity until he was fourteen when his family got a Delco radio. He at once new how it worked. He next applied an electric motor to his mothers hand crank washing machine. He found stacks of electrical journals in the attic of his home and studied them faithfully. In 1922 at his high school, he staggered his science teacher by drawing the complete electrical schematic for a television system. At this time, a system involving mechanical wheels was being developed, but Farnsworth’s system was light years ahead of it. Farnsworth later worked his way through college working for a Salt Lake City community chest drive. He told George Everson, professional fund raiser from California who was helping organize the campaign, about his television ideas, and Everson took the youth back to Califorina to set him up with equipment in an apartment. Farnsworth had his first success in 1927 when he transmitted various graphic designs including a dollar sign, which according to Everson “jumped out at us from the screen.” Applying for an electronic television patent, Farnsworth took RCA completely by surprise. It’s attorneys contested the application, and in interference proceedings grilled Farnworth for hours, but could not shake him. In 1930, at age twenty-four, he got his patent. RCA new it would have to deal with Farnsworth for he was far ahead of Vladimir Zworykin a Russian engineer who was developing

2 television for Sarnoff, head of RCA. Farnsworth was ready to license RCA on a royalty basis. That was not good enough for Sarnoff, he had to own all of the patents RCA used. He sent Zworykin to Farnsworth’s lab to have a look around. Farnsworth naively explained all of his discoveries to him. Zworykin memorized as much as he could then went back to RCA to try to duplicate what he had saw. Over the next years RCA continually challenged Farnsworth’s patents, draining him financially and taking much of his time. Sarnoff was known to be a ruthless business man and would do anything to insure the success of his television system. Farnsworth did finally win in the end. The RCA attorney is said to have had tears in his eyes as he signed the contract. In 1933 the inventor Edwin Armstrong demonstrated a new static-free method of radio transmission, frequency modulation (FM), far superior to the amplitude modulation (AM) then in use. Armstrong’s advocacy of FM, which caught the ear of the government, threatened to block the introduction of Sarnoff’s television, which required some of the same hotly contested frequencies. In order to make peace, Sarnoff offered Armstrong $1 million for the FM patent rights, but Armstrong, by then operating his own FM radio station, W2XMN, refused. In 1940 the Federal Communications Commission approved FM for radio broadcasting, but by allowing FM stations to duplicate AM programming, it dampened much of the promise of the alternative system. The FCC, however, ensured FM’s survival by requiring that it also be used for television transmission. In 1944 the FCC determined frequencies for both FM and television. RCA prepared for its million-dollar television demonstration at the New York Worlds Fair in 1939. Farnsworth had won backing from the Philco radio company

3 and moved to Philadelphia to continue his television experiments. The stage seamed set for the emergence of television when World War Two broke out. RCA and other companies had to pitch in with the production of radio’s and screens for radar equipment for the military. In 1945, as peace came, electronic assemble lines, freed from the production of electronic war material, were ready to turn out picture tubes and television sets. RCA promised sets for mid-1946. The sets themselves weren’t much use without a signal to receive. The large radio corporations, ABC,CBS, and NBC quickly opened their television broadcast companies. The format of the television shows they produced were based on their radio programs. They had commercials, drama, news, comedies, with one big difference. Now you could actually see the actors instead of just hear them. Television has been with us ever since. The A.C. Nielsen Company, which measures audience size, reported in 1992 that 98.2% of U.S. homes contained at least one television and the average set is turned on seven hours a day.

SOCIAL ASPECTS OF TELEVISION
TELEVISION VIOLENCE Television violence can have a profound effect on people, old and young. It may not have an effect on all people, but may have a drastic effect on some. Imitations of television crimes are not rare. There is hardly a day in which the wire services and police blotters across the country do not carry stories like the following ones: In San Diego, California, a nineteen-year-old boy chopped his parents and his sister to death and crippled his brother with an ax. Prosecutors and police

4 officials familiar with the case say he acted after seeing a made-for-television movie about Lizzie Borden and that the boy discussed the movie with his classmates in the days after it was shown. The boy was a high school honor student and athlete. Three weeks after the broadcast of a made-for-television murder movie in 1973, a seventeen-year-old boy, who said he had “memorized the film to the last detail,” admitted to re-enacting the crime when he murdered a young woman. Police said she had been raped, her head had been bludgeoned, and her throat had been cut--just as in the film. In New York City a taxi driver held up a bar and killed three people. Caught by police, he said his crime had been modeled after a recent television show. In Baltimore, an ex-GI in fatigues shot and killed five co-workers with an M1 rifle; police later discovered that he had purchased some chocolate bars at the same time he bought the riffle. He made the purchases one week after a prime-time television program had portrayed a fatigue-clad veteran who munched chocolate bars while shooting at passers-by. Of coarse these are extreme cases who were carried out by sick individuals. These people probably would have committed the crimes anyway, but I do agree that constant violence on television can influence people to different degrees. Some people may have trouble telling the difference between what’s on television and real life. Many people complain about the violence in television shows but ultimately it’s the television viewer who decides what shows will be on. If a show isn’t being watched the networks will cancel it. I feel that television is a reflection of society. This can be seen if you look at television shows throughout the past and their relation to true history.

5 POLITICS AND TELEVISION In 1947 the House Un-American Activities Committee began an investigation of the film industry, and Joseph McCarthy soon began to inveigh against what he believed to be Communist infiltration of the government. Broadcasting, too, felt the impact of this right-wing shift of the national mood. When anti-Communist vigilantes applied pressure to advertisers--the source of network profits--it became imperative that the industry defend itself. The task fell to the man considered the industry’s moral leader, Edward R. Murrow. In partnership with the news producer Fred Friendly, he began “See It Now”, a television documentary series in 1950. “See It Now” occasionally explored examples of McCarthy-inspired intimidation, such as the Air Force discharge of Lt. Milo Radulovich on suspicion of the political sympathies of a family member. On Mar. 9, 1954, Murrow narrated a report on McCarthy himself, exposing the senators shoddy tactics. Murrow observed: “His mistake has been to confuse dissent with disloyalty.” Offered free time by CBS, McCarthy replied on April 6, calling Murrow “the leader and the cleverest of the jackal pack which is always found at the throat of anyone who dares to expose communist traitors.” In this TV appearance McCarthy proved to be his own worst enemy, and it became apparent that Murrow had helped to break McCarthy’s reign of fear. In 1954 the U.S. Senate voted to censure McCarthy. In 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon met for four debates that were a milestone in presidential politics, primarily because of the vast audience, this being the first televised presidential debate. More than 70 million Americans saw the first debate, and audiences greater than 50 million witnessed the other three.

6 Studies of the effects of the debates generally indicated that only the first debate, in which Kennedy was viewed the winner, made any noteworthy impact on the outcome of the election. Nixon was said to look nervous, was sweating, and refused to wear make-up, while Kennedy looked calm and relaxed. The same debate broadcast over radio had Nixon as the winner. A politicians image on the television could be a powerful advantage and was used from that point on. Watergate is the popular name for the political scandal and constitutional crisis that began with the arrest (June 17, 1972) of five burglars who broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C. It ended with the resignation (Aug. 9, 1974) of President Richard M. Nixon. Growing suspicion of presidential involvement resulted in an intensification of the investigation. Leaders in this inquiry included Judge Sirica, reporters for the Washington Post, the Ervin committee, and Archibald Cox, who was sworn in as special prosecutor in May 1973. The Watergate hearings were public and were broadcast on television for weeks. Through the medium of television, the public watched the American government unravel, and saw the impeachment of a president. This led to a very low public opinion of the government and the nation as a whole. It would be years before it would recover. The television networks felt that this was an event that should be telecast. It was important U.S. history in the making. EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION Educational programs are mostly found on public television stations such as PBS. Commercial television does offer some educational specials such as National Geographic and other programs, but its primary purpose is entertainment. Public

7 television provides entertaining and increasingly well-produced programs for America’s upscale, college-educated professionals--an audience impatient with the “vast wasteland” of commercial fare. Interestingly, though, it has most often been the commercial networks that have pioneered new forms, bold topics, and unorthodox concepts. Public television has been to poor, to divided against itself, and too uncertain of its goals to play it anything but safe. Never the less, public television offers many educational programs for both children and adults. I found myself being able to converse with people on many various subjects after seeing it on PBS. I found it much more enlightening than discussing “Who shot J.R.?” WGBH CH 36 in Providence also offers college tellecourses in affiliation with the Community College of R.I. This allows people to go to college from the comfort of their homes or for people who can’t leave. The television plays another role in education. It allows teachers in grade schools and colleges to play video tapes on subject matter to aid in classes. I feel that television has played an important role in education. ENTERTAINMENT Television was invented mainly as being a form of entertainment, as its predecessor, the radio. The bulk of programs today and in the past are meant solely to entertain. By watching movies, sports, game shows, sit-coms, talk shows, a person doesn’t gain anything except having his mind occupied for an amount of time. But, this may be what the viewer wants. After a long, busy day a work many people just want to come home and relax. They may not want to see an educational show. Television entertainment offers programs for the young, such as cartoons, and for the mature person, the movie of the week. Television entertainment has changed

8 with society over the years. What you could say and things that you could show are radically different. For instance, on “I Love Lucy”, in a scene when Luciel Ball was pregnant, she was forbidden to say the word “pregnant”. On the “Dick Van Dyke Show”, when they showed a scene of their bedroom, it always showed separate beds. Now in 1997, shows like “Married With Children” are a far cry from those early shows. Almost anything goes. Sex and dysfunctional family life are often the subject of the shows. Even the sit-com “Sinefeld” devotes some shows to topics like masturbation, female orgasms, and homosexuality. But is it television broadcasters who allow this? No I believe it’s the public, the viewer, society. When ever a large group of people don’t like something it is taken of the air, so I must assume that the type of entertainment on television is what society wants or allows. TELEVISION NEWS Television news has had a great and lasting impact on society. A viewer can sit back and have the world come into his living room. Television reporters can broadcast almost any story because of the Bill of Rites freedom of speech clause in the U.S. Constitution. They have found out information about government coverups, corruption, and wrong doings in public and private sectors. This power of the press often keeps these organizations in check by alerting the public to their practices. THIRD WORLD TELEVISION The broadcast media of some third world countries were not originally conceived as major instruments of development policy. Even independence did not direct attention to broadcasting for this purpose. And this is so even though the media are tightly controlled by governments. Their offices are controlled by armed

9 guards; they take care to present only approved news and precensored programs. This is true in most communist third world countries. These governments use television as a tool to control the people. This is possible because most communist countries do not have the freedom of speech as in the U.S. The U.S. government can apply some censorship, because it controls the FCC, but the Bill of Rites allows much freedom in our programming.

PERSONAL ASSESSMENT SECTION
I still believe that what’s on television today is what the public wants to see. Broadcasters want you to watch and go through great lengths to find out what will keep the public watching. Television is seen by a diverse group of people. Old, young, rich, poor, black, white, educated, illiterate, it must serve a multitude. None of these separate groups could ever agree on one type of program so the broadcasters must try to keep them all happy by developing shows targeted for each group. I think they do this quite well. But why should the networks want us to watch? To see the commercials of coarse. The networks sell their broadcast time to advertisers to air their commercials. What do the networks do with that money? They develop the T.V. shows and what’s left is profit, of coarse. What do the advertisers get? They are paid by the companies whose product they advertise. It all fits together like one big business transaction. What do the television viewers get? They get to watch the television programs--with one catch, they also have to watch the commercials. All in all I have enjoyed watching television over the years. I admit there could be some changes, but only large amounts of viewers can do this. One example is the boycott by the Baptists of Disney and it’s television show “Ellen”. They object

10 to Ellen being allowed to admit that she is a lesbian on the show. The Baptists are said to number about 10 million. Disney said it had no plans to change anything, but I believe that they will, subtly. The thing about television is if you don’t like a program, or if you are offended by something, then change the channel. No one is forced to watch. Maybe those people who are dissatisfied with T.V. should go to the library.

CONCLUDING SECTION
Television in 1997 has allot of competition. It must compete with cable, video tapes, laser discs, and satellite T.V. The only advantage it has over these other mediums is that it is free. I thought of a great idea that would put T.V. in direct competition with cable. Why not have separate channels for different types of programs like cable, i.e. the movie channel, the learning channel, the sit-com channel. Also it would have the ability to lock out channels, making adult material unavailable to children. President Clinton has already spoken of the v-chip. If the networks could arrange themselves in this manner, perhaps the programming would improve. With the v-chip, people would no longer worry about what their children are exposed to. That is my recommendation. For the present I would like to see them cut back on the murder shows. I was always amazed on how many murders you could see in one night of television. The human race seems to be obsessed with it. There is “Murder She Wrote”, “Diagnosis Murder”, almost every movie of the week deals with murder, almost every cop and lawyer show does. Isn’t there something a little more cheerful we could

11 watch. I am sure someday television programming will change. It will not change until society does. REFERENCES: A. B. C. D. E. Broadcasting in the Third World, Elihu Katz and George Wedell, 1977 On Television, Stuart Hood, 1987 Remote Control, Frank Mankiewicz and Joel Swerdlow, 1978 The Coming of Television, Grolier electronic encyclopedia, 1993 Tube of Plenty, Erik Barnouw, 1990