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The Emergence of Television Essay Sample

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The Emergence of Television Essay Sample

Franois Bedaria has described the emergence of television of television as an ‘absolute revolution’. Television today is extremely different from how it was on its first regular transmissions back in the 1950’s. Today, there are five main TV channels to choose from and over one hundred cable and satellite channels from a wide range or digital packages available. It is also evident that watching television is considered the main leisure activity as recent surveys have portrayed.

The General Household Survey of 2002 collected data from adults. It was a review of the most popular leisure activities to do at home. 99% of people interviewed said they considered watching television to be the main source of leisure. This is a staggering amount compared to what this number would have been just Thirty years earlier; in 1970 25% of all leisure time was spent watching television. It is also estimated that the average UK person watches around twenty five hours of television every week. From the statistical research, it is highly apparent that television can be considered the most widely participated in leisure opportunity within the home.

To help one establish a sufficient argument for this question, it is imperative to define the key words within the proposed statement. A ‘key turning point’ is classified as an event which causes an absolute change in the fabric of society. A ‘leisure opportunity’ is expressed as a time for ease and relaxation in which there is a chance to participate in a hobby. Traditionally, activities taken part in during leisure opportunities may have been gardening, cooking, reading and sports. However, over the past 50 years with the ever growing availability of mass communication these activities may be less favourable and replaced by watching television, listening to music or playing computer games and browsing the internet. One must understand that it is extremely challenging to define the ‘ordinary person’ as there are a range of factors which must be taken into consideration. For example, Britain is a multi – cultural society, people are in varied positions in dissimilar jobs, therefore income may be wide-ranging and some families are larger than others. However, I have used statistical evidence from research to attempt to identify the modern average person. Firstly, the average person is usually in their first or second marriage with an approximate family size of two children. Secondly, the typical ordinary person would be working either within a managerial, professional or clerical role.

Prior to World War Two, there had been some major developments in the world of media. The first cinematic performance in Britain took place in 1896, and by the end of this year moving images were used in many musical shows across the country. This signified the start of what was to become the most popular leisure activity up until the invention of television. By 1910 there were 1600 working cinemas in Britain and by 1914 this was 4000. Up until World War two cinemas were receiving an average of 20million admittances per week. It was the invention of film which some historians consider to be the turning point for the improvement in leisure opportunities. Channon once said ‘The modern world almost seems to have begun with the birth of film, at any rate in retrospect. Because we are used to seeing images of the First World War, the First World War seems to be part of the modern period. But anything more than twenty years earlier than that belongs to an era which we easily feel to be lost’.

As well as cinema becoming a form of mass communication in the early century, the radio also became a popular form of entertainment. In 1922 the BBC was set up in order to ‘educate, inform and entertain the public’ in the form of the wireless. By 1925 radio could be heard throughout the UK. In its first year on air the BBC had broadcast plays, classical music concerts, talks and variety programmes. By 1938 9 million people owned radios, this was three quarters of Britain’s population. Although television is not seen as a form of mass media prior to World War two, it must not be forgotten that it still existed. The first television had in fact been invented in 1908; however, the television wasn’t given its first public broadcast until 1925. The television wasn’t as successful as it would become after the war, possibly because receivers were too expensive or people were simply not interested in what was being broadcast, as very little was shown on television at this time. In fact, statistics show that less than 10,000 households owned televisions prior to the war.

Once the Second World War had arrived, changes were to be made within the media industry. Firstly, 1939 saw the suspension of the television service; to prevent the opportunity for spying. Secondly, radio saw huge audience changes. In 1940 the BBC transformed itself to correspond with its new audience. Instead of the audience being middle class families, it became an audience of workers listening from the factories. The most popular programmes were the home service and the national forces service. The style and content of these new broadcasts made radio become more popular. With the suspension of television and no other course of leisure available, cinema attendances saw their peak during the war. By 1945 there were 4,732 cinemas open nationwide. This is the biggest amount of cinema screens open Britain has ever seen. As well as the amount of cinemas available, the war also symbolised the cinema industry’s peak admittances.

This table shows war time cinema attendance in millions


Number of cinema admittances











The above table portrays how prevalent cinema was during the war. These figures were some of the highest British cinemas have ever seen and they also are a good representation to support the view that prior to the emergence of television as mass communication cinema was the most popular leisure activity. The end of the war meant the resumption of television after the war and the biggest cinema admittance of all time – 1,635 million in 1946.

The early 1950’s symbolise the arrival of a new affluent society, benefiting from economic growth and prosperity. For the first time ever, people were able to put their houses, cars and leisure activities at highest importance and the consumer society was born. The years 1953 to 1973 saw over 7 million houses built to replace war damage and the quality of the houses had also increased. People also started to take more holidays. During the 1960’s and 1970’s airline industries expanded and started to offer cheap package holidays abroad. The number of people who travelled abroad quadrupled and Spain appeared to be the most popular destination, with approximately half of all British holidaymakers staying there in 1970. However, the biggest sign of post – war change came with the emergence of television. In 1951 just 1 in 15 owned a TV, by 1955 this was 1/4, by 1960 it was 2 in 3 households and by 1975 9 out of 10 homes had a TV. This dramatic increase occurred in just twenty years.

This increase in TV purchases could in part be attributed to the transmission of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. This was watched by 27 million viewers. With the number of receivers being sold increasing, the government introduced a new TV act in 1954. This act proposed the introduction of independent broadcasting services. These were said to be ‘Additional to those of the BBC and of high quality…which may include advertisements’.

Independent TV companies received their income from selling advertising space, so it was therefore dependant on viewing ratings. This new independent TV was to become ITV and led the way for similar channels to be established, such as channel four in 1982 and channel 5 in 1997. The founding of new and different channels led to what is now known as the ‘golden age’ of TV. This occurred in the 1950’s and 1960’s and when television schedules adapted to suit the audiences. Admired programmes in the 1950 have included The Cisco Kid, Dixon of Dock Green and Hancock. Whereas the 1960’s saw television comedies such as Steptoe and Son and children’s TV entertainment including Andy Pandy and Bill & Ben. Although the social changes happening were good news for most businesses, the emergence of television did start to symbolize the demise of other leisure activities. For example, cinema attendances started to decrease.

Table showing cinema attendances after the emergence of television


Number of cinema attendances











The table above shows the remarkable decline in cinema attendances after the social reforms and emergence of TV. In contrast to the war-time figures, these are some of the most disappointing cinema figures in British history and they have continued to dwindle further into the 1990’s. By 1990, the annual cinema admittance was just 96.4 million. The only possible reason for this decrease in cinema visits is the ownership of televisions. In the years 1958 to 1962, television sales were increasing by over a thousand every year. It is clear that as television sales are increasing cinema ticket sales are in decline.

Thirty years on from the emergence of television and the Golden Age, there are still technological advancements happening today. For example the invention of video players in 1974 and the ability to record and purchase film onto tape meant further People were starting to spend more time watching their favorite films on tape rather than doing hobbies such as gardening and reading. The arrival of DVD players was similar to this. By 2002 67% of Western homes owned DVD players and this is expected to rise. DVD’s could symbolize further decline is cinema as it has been proven that British people spend more on purchasing DVDs than going to the cinema. The internet is also starting to become one of the main leisure activities participated in today.

By 2003 over half of the British population used the internet regularly and over 5000 new users are registering online everyday. The emergence of the internet could be considered disastrous for some industries. The music and film companies are at risk of losing money as piracy from downloading of the internet is increasing everyday. There could also be a decline in another leisure activity – shopping. 20% of British women consider retail therapy to be their hobby, but a recent poll showed that on average 9 million people a year are using the internet to do their shopping. Therefore, it is a strong possibility that the internet could be considered as a key turning point in the future.

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