Timeline of American Television
by Alex Cosper, April 20, 2015
The roots of television go back to the early 20th century. By the middle of the century it rapidly became the most popular form of media in America, overshadowing radio. During that time the TV set became part of the furniture in almost everyone's living room.
Regular network programming schedules emerged, as TV started replacing social events for home and community entertainment on a widespread level. By the middle of the sixties almost all network programming was produced in color. From the seventies on, many people added video recorders and players to their living room entertainment systems while cable TV added more choices for viewing.
Most people know the rest of the story as far as how television developed in the digital age. With the popularity of the internet came the concept of the internet merging with television.
Even though internet consumption now rivals time spent consuming traditional media, television still commands high priced advertising that attracts national sponsors. Car companies, banks, insurance companies, healthcare organizations, big pharma, alcohol and beverage giants, fast food and processed food companies have kept the networks alive wealthy. Notice how shows come and go based on ratings but the big sponsors stay the same.
The downside of television has been that scientists have found study after study that it reduces attention span. Social observers have noticed that watching too much television has contributed to the "dumbing of society." Health experts point out that watching TV for over two hours per day in the same sitting position restricts blood flow, which can lead to various health problems. Eye specialists may tell you that excessive TV viewing is bad on the eyes. Psychologists claim that watching the flickering lights that the technology generates puts the human mind in a state of hypnosis.
Perhaps the most dangerous part of watching too much TV is that it limits your perception of the real world while sucking your life away. We don't know how much impact these factors have on the mind and body, but we do know that if you believe everything you see on TV, then your mind has been distorted and you have been conditioned to accept electronic lines on a screen as reality, despite the fact that most of it is staged entertainment, including the news.
We also know for sure that television advertising is so expensive that it shuts most small to medium busineses out of the process. Furthermore, we know that even though there are countless channels to be found on the "idiot box," most of these choices are controlled by a short list of big companies. All of these factors contribute to the compelling argument that television can lead to an addiction that can rob people of real human livelihood and replace it with dull, homogenized visions of commercial conformity.
One of the best songs that summarizes this conclusion is "Television, The Drug of the Nation" by Disposable Heroes of Hiphopricy if you like intelligent hip hop music. For intelligent rockers the song "Dirty Laundry" by Don Henley has an equally strong message.
So is television really the greatest invention of all time? It depends who you ask, but my perception is that its importance has been severely dwarfed by the interactive internet. At the same time, television has given the world many great experiences in the form of live events, documentaries and fun entertainment. The argument that it delivers too much violence in family living rooms does have validity. It's also valid to say that Hollywood is more about commerce than art, which is why it clings to the same old tested formulas with different names over and over.
But as long as you remember that TV really isn't the real world and that nature is still much more relevant, then it's not such a bad thing. If it helps you do critical research and see through propaganda, then it might actually be a good thing. Here are some of the key developments in the history of television: