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1. An electronic technology enabling the encoding and decoding of ‘moving images’ and synchronized sounds, together with their unidirectional, instantaneous, long-distance transmission and reception as modulated electrical signals either sent through cable or broadcast through the airwaves (see also broadcasting; cable television; radio waves; satellite broadcasting; terrestrial broadcasting). The technology was developed in the late 19th and early 20th century.

2. The mass communications medium for audiovisual broadcasting. As a broadcasting medium it has much in common with radio, from which it inherited key genres (see radio genres; television genres). As an audiovisual medium it tends to be distinguished from cinema primarily in relation to: the ‘small screen’, domestic reception, relatively low viewer involvement, and the greater attentional role of sound. The domesticity of the medium influences the preferred mode of address. See direct address; domestic communication technologies; glance; high and low involvement; parasocial interaction; television flow; television viewing styles.

3. The live or recorded audiovisual broadcasts produced for, and transmitted by, this medium (see commercials; ident; programme; television genres). The first regular broadcasts in the UK and US began in the 1930s, though broadcasting was not widespread until the 1950s. By the 1970s critical television studies had begun to subject this output to textual analysis. The vast reach of television and the tendency for TV news to be treated as a ‘window on the world’ generated ideological analysis (see also dominant ideology; manipulative model; manufacture of consent; media hegemony). Subsequently, in cultural studies attention turned to diversity of interpretation in television audiences: see also active audience theory; encoding/decoding model.

4. An industry concerned with producing and transmitting audiovisual broadcasts, regulated in varying ways by governments (see public service broadcasting; regulation), and subject to commercial pressures in retaining and increasing audiences (see also commercialization; political economy).

5. (TV set or receiver) An electronic device and domestic consumer entertainment product with a screen and sound system for receiving and reproducing moving images and sounds sourced either remotely from broadcasts or cable, or locally: e.g. from DVD (see also brown goods; television reception). In the UK and the USA, about 99% of the population own at least one television set.

6. Commercially, a major advertising medium for delivering target audiences to advertisers, both nationally and regionally, by time of day (see also commercials). It has high levels of reach and impact compared to other advertising media (see also media buying). However, TV advertising is highly intrusive (unrequested): see also zapping; zipping.

7. A major cultural institution closely associated with shifting leisure patterns, the concept of the global village, and with the perpetuation of consumerism (see also television culture; televisual reality). In the UK watching TV now accounts for more time than all other leisure pursuits combined, and the medium has been seen as fulfilling multiple functions (see also media functions; relational uses; structural uses; television viewing patterns; uses and gratifications). It has traditionally been argued to be a unifying experience (particularly at the national level), though many see this as undermined by the increased diversity of channels. See also audience fragmentation; imagined community; public and private spheres; socialization function.


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