COM 208: TV

Origins of the Boob Tube: 21-year-old Philo Farnsworth transmitted the first TV picture in 1927. David Sarnoff, president of RCA Victor, paid Farnsworth $1 million for his patents.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

Farnsworth happened to be in New York the day Sarnoff presided over the broadcast of the opening ceremonies of the 1939 World’s Fair. He joined the crowd gathered in front of a stack of televisions in a department-store window in time to watch Sarnoff make his pronouncements.

Evan I. Schwartz, author of “The Last Lone Inventor,” told the Chronicle:

It was sheer anguish for him to see someone else take credit for his ideas.

The paper said:

Shortly thereafter, Farnsworth suffered a nervous breakdown. He spent the rest of his life fighting mood swings, ulcers, alcohol problems and business failures. He sold his television company after World War II and mortgaged his home, sold his stock and cashed in his life insurance, convinced that he could unlock the secrets of nuclear fusion. He died at age 64 in 1971, a depressed and forgotten man. He would not let his youngest son even watch television.
“He was idealistic about television when he was working on it,” said Schwartz. “He thought it would wipe out the need for war, that it would end ignorance and illiteracy. He thought it was an educational tool. He didn’t quite see ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ “

Jersey shore
Future of Television
Democratization of production and distribution of television. Viki: Real-time translations of shows in your language
Digital living room. Apple TV. Zynga – connecting the world through games.

  • What do you think about television as a social force?
  • How important is television in the lives of Americans?
  • How much influence does television have on children? Teenagers? Adults?
  • How does television influence American culture, society, etc.?
  • How big of a business is television?

Big bucks

  • Forbes’ 2009 list of the top 100 most powerful entertainers showed cumulative earnings of $4.1 billion, up slightly from last year’s $4 billion haul.
  • Top 100 TV advertisers spend more than $15 billion per year

How to add 12 years to your life

  • The average American spends more than four hours watching TV
  • That’s 28 hours per week or 1,256 hours per year
  • That’s 60 days or two months
  • Keep it up for 72 years and you’ll spend 12 years in front of the tube during your lifetime

Source: Donella Meadows

Influence of television is pervasive

  • No. of people in average American household: 2.55
  • No. of televisions in average American household: 2.73
  • Half of American homes have at least three TVs
  • In 1975, only 11 percent of homes had three TVs or more

Source: Nielson 2006

Viewing habits

  • The television is on for well over eight hours per day in the average American home. That is an hour more than a decade ago.
  • The average American watches 4 hours and 35 minutes of television each day
  • Young people ages 12-17 have increased their television viewing by 3 percent over the past year

Television use for children ages 2 to 6

  • One hour, 58 minutes TV time per day
  • 39 minutes per day reading
  • 73 percent watch every day
  • 18 percent use a computer
  • 9 percent play video games

Source: 2003 survey of 1,000-plus children. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Media in lives of people ages 8 to 18

  • Recreation consumption of media
  • Survey of 2,032 third- to 12th-graders
  • Total amount of leisure time spent with media equals a full-time job
  • Average: Six hours, 21 minutes.
  • Since some of it is multi-tasking, eight- to 18-year-olds take in eight and one-half hours of media content

10-year-old’s bedroom

  • A multi-media center
  • Many 40-year-olds don’t get it

We can’t turn it off

  • Percent of Americans who regularly watch TV while eating dinner: 66.
  • Total hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 250 billion.
  • Value of that time at $5 per hour: $1.25 trillion. (In five years it would pay off the national debt.)

Time in front of the tube

  • Number of books checked out of public libraries in the U.S. every day: 3 million.
  • Number of videos rented every day: 6 million.
  • Amount Americans spend each year in late fees for failing to return videos on time: $3 billion.
  • Percent of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49.

It’s addictive

  • Hours per year the average American child spends in school:900.
  • Hours per year the average American child watches television: 1500.
  • Number of murders the average child sees on TV before finishing elementary school: 8000.
  • Percent of Americans who believe TV violence encourages real-life violence: 79.
  • More sex, more violence, more foul language

How far is too far?

  • These days, there’s widespread use such words as “ass” and “bitch” on television.
  • And the f-word is regularly bleeped out.

Example from “My Name is Earl”

  • Catalina: I scrub toilets all day, and at night I dance for drunk losers who flick nickels at my ass. I’m going crazy!

The family hour
In 180 hours of programming there were:

  • 815 uses of foul language
  • 677 sexual scenes or references
  • 754 instances of violence

Source: Parents Television Council

No wonder some people call it an “idiot box.”

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