Week Two Reflections

Television and Post-Broadcast Era:
Jinna Tay and Graeme Turner’s argument in the chapter chosen from Not the Apacolypse: Television Futures in the Digital Age presents the didactic perceptions of a post-broadcast era:
1) Digital Optimism: sees “unprecedented degree of consumer access and content customization is set to dramatically change the nature of television content, as well as the manner in which it is consumed or produced”. Proposed changes include “increased popular participation at the production end, and some form of democratization at the consumption end” with the goal of “a viable market for those who have invested in these new developments”.
2) Broadcast Pessimism: sees “the declining share of… the US market now watching broadcast television as an incontrovertible sign of the imminent collapse of the broadcast platform altogether”. Broadcast pessimists make a case for the end of television.

The end of television debate is globally relevant. Tay and Turner claim that India, for instance, “is only now entering its ‘age of television’, and its markets are dominated by broadcasting”. One could take the perspective that America is an anomaly for having switched from analogue to digital.

Tay and Turner claim that being overwhelmed by “the pace of technological change”, we depend on the information from media industries who, being the voice-of-God, produce “industry ‘spin'” which provides a commercial service rather than one of informational value to the audience. A fascination with technological change means we are, more often than not, complicit with the ‘spin’ and are deceived by critical statistics “which do not exist or have yet to take place”. Historic examples indicate that we need not “abandon our scepticism about the validity and motivations of industry-sourced figures”.

The argument made here by Tay and Turner really encapsulates what was written on one of the first slides from last week’s lecture which, incidentally, came from the mouths of Tay and Turner themselves:

Rumours of the death of television may be exaggerated, but there is no doubt that the head-in-the-sand option has long passed.

When I first read this quote, I thought Tay and Turner were emphasising the need to scrutinise what defines television and how its traditions may be under threat. This could be the intended meaning of the quote but having read this article I see now that the authors might be referring to the implications of a post-broadcast era, where media industries develop an authoritative position over consumers who are uncritically yearning for knowledge. The “head-in-the-sand option” is to turn a blind eye to the idea that, amidst the information being supplied by media industries, we are being deceived by false figures and statistics.

News as a Genre:
To define one’s conventions is to define its genre. Television news programs have a series of similarities with one another that I think are organic to their genre.

That the news can usually be broadcast at any hour and has its lengthier programs scheduled during prime time slots suggests that it is catered to appeal to many demographics. Bigger news broadcasts presented at family-friendly hours present material suitable to be watched by all ages. With the exception of current affairs programs such as 60 Minutes, most television news shows scarcely display adult themes.

A television station’s identity (particularly its political stance) is formed through the news it broadcasts. In choosing to feature sensationalist articles or coverage of more culturally important events, a TV station is respectively appealing to a larger demographic or to an audience with a specific interest in national and international current affairs. Put simply, I generally think of tabloid newspapers as free-to-air channels 7, 9 and 10 while the ABC reminds me of a broadsheet newspaper like The Age.

News depicts itself as a gratifying device for its audience. Through discussion generated during the lecture, the idea of the news anchor as authoritarian was touched on. The reports are channelled through the anchor – he/she appears to control where we “cross live” to, is addressed verbally by field reporters and becomes the key figure we communicate with (the field reporters seem to look at the anchor and the anchor at us). Charlie Brooker grasps this dynamic between anchor and viewer during this parody.

The Death of Television?
Former President of the Independent Film Channel (IFC), Evan Shapiro, identified the “INTERWEBS” as the biggest perceived threat to the concept of ‘television’. Before reading Shapiro’s article, I thought it worthwhile to reach a (set of) conclusion(s) about the definition of ‘television’. Brian recognised during the week one lecture that television can be identified as “a social experience associated with producing, viewing, listening, talking about, reading about, being captured by, appearing on, and being influenced and affected by television”. The implications of this is that even the viewers who engage with television programs in ways that TV producers do not intend (I’m talking specifically of piracy) feed the longevity of television through the social culture that arises from having an interaction with a show.

Sure enough, when I then found Shapiro’s article, I discovered that the former IFC President reached the same conclusion regarding the malleable state of the definition of television. As Shapiro so concisely puts it: “No matter when or where or how someone watches television, it is still TV”.

So in its loosest definition, the concept of television’s lifeline is secure. But what of how most people would come to understand television – in its broadcast form? For Brian, the “coverage of ritualistic, nation-building ‘live’ events” and “social rituals that broadcast television affords” remain the reasons why broadcast television remains vital to audiences and will thus continue to survive. A topical example of this is the Olympics, where broadcast television is ritualistically viewed on broadcast television worldwide and is preferably watched live by many.

Resources:
Tay, J; Turner, G, 2010. “Digital optimism, broadcast pessimism and the end of television” Not the Apocalypse: Television Futures in the Digital Age. International Journal of Digital Television Volume 1 Number 1, University of Queensland, Australia

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