Futures of television

Authored by: John Corner

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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As many writers have noted, what is indicated by ‘television’ can vary according to context. ‘Television’ is a specific technology of production and transmission, for many years having its most widespread and routine physical manifestation in the ‘television set’. It is also a major part of the information, entertainment and leisure industry internationally, involving large and complex institutions working within various kinds of business model. For many people, however, the meaning of television (perhaps in its casual, taken-for-granted designation as ‘TV’) is much more to do with kinds of initially domestic but now increasingly mobile experience which, with variations, have been shared worldwide. This is an experience of watching and listening, learning and enjoying, being gripped by depicted events and also being relaxed, of being recreated. All these dimensions are active in the idea that television is a ‘medium’, a distinctive set of opportunities, a distinctive means, for creativity and communication which can be usefully compared and contrasted with cinema and radio as well as the varieties of photographic and printed material. In his classic book, Television: Technology and Cultural Form, Raymond Williams (1974) showed his awareness of the multi-faceted character of television and tried to trace some of the lines by which it had developed into such a significant phenomenon. His account drew on his sense of the way in which television’s domestic presence, its collapsing of times and spaces and the generic range of its portrayals combined to make it a socially shaping technology of an unparalleled kind.

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