World Television Day 2021: Mulling Over The Real Idiot, The Box Or The Person In Front Of It

The meteoric rise in popularity of television is due to its audio-visual nature. It also highlights a very important aspect, the decrease in viewers’ attention span. No one likes to sit and read a newspaper these days, all they want is a television blaring out at them while they hurriedly stuff their mouths and run for their chores.

Soumyadeep Das

Since its invention on August 25, 1934, television has indeed come a long way. By the turn of the century, it slowly replaced Radio as the most popular medium of mass communication, though Radio still holds a place in the hearts of loyalists.

Television holds an upper hand over Radio in that it is an audio-visual medium, where Radio is an audio-only medium. The United Nations in 1996 declared November 21 as World Television Day to commemorate the date on which the first World Television Forum was held in 1996.

The Indian Express in January 1950 reported that television was put up for a demonstration in Madras by an electrical engineering student. According to it, a letter was scanned and its image was displayed on a cathode ray tube screen.

In 1965, daily transmission as a part of All India Radio (AIR) was started. By 1972, services were extended to Bombay and Amritsar. Remarkably, until 1975, only seven cities in the country had television.

The concept of ‘television for development’ was an important step as a part of the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE). Doordarshan, the public broadcaster came into being with twice a day telecasts, every morning and evening.

Television today is the most widely viewed medium around the world and in India too. Rapid privatization has happened, seeing its popularity skyrocket. Today, a viewer has a choice of hundreds of channels to select and watch from, in contrast to the times in which there was only one Doordarshan.

Public service broadcasters took it upon themselves to air knowledge-based programs for communities of farmers, students, and the likes. These shows, started with the aim of educating the masses with the help of informative shows have had successes. Though, in today’s times, their popularity remains in doubt.

The scenario has changed, but the question that arises out of it is, at what cost? The popularity of public service broadcasters has decreased. The days of huge sets are gone with the slimmest, flattest, and largest ever sets on display at every electronics store. Indeed, it has also become a status symbol, with people competing to bring home the larger set amongst their peers.

We as consumers believe that we are watching what we want, but in truth, we see what we are shown. Taking the example of news channels, for instance, there was a time when they did in fact air news. Understandably, it was boring, but it should have remained that way.

Nowadays, everything is breaking news with no real focus on relevant and important topics and no follow-ups. It is a sad state of affairs when all the channels care about are TRP and revenue with question marks all over on responsibility.

Viewers do have the option of choosing from a wide range of entertainment channels, they should not have to turn to a news channel for entertainment. Polarization and privatization have destroyed their essence.

Moreover, how blatantly such content gets looked over by the nodal bodies set up to look after the content is obvious, shocking, and sadly, not much thought-provoking. It has been like this for a while.

The meteoric rise in popularity of television is due to its audio-visual nature. It also highlights a very important aspect, the decrease in viewers’ attention span. No one likes to sit and read a newspaper these days, all they want is a television blaring out at them while they hurriedly stuff their mouths and run for their chores.

Indeed times have changed and along with it, people’s choices and lifestyles. What has remained constant though, is ‘television’. Nothing highlighted it more than the Covid-19 pandemic. Sitting at our homes with nothing to do, we have all turned up to the television to kill time.

Coincidently, the popularity of OTT services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video has risen. Conventional viewing at large has changed with people getting what they want, when they want and how they want it. This has prompted a shift in the viewing paradigm as it is becoming more and more viewer-oriented.

Called an ‘idiot box’, the situation has come to it that who is the real idiot, the box or the person in front of it? Contrasting all the pros and cons, we have to keep in mind that at the end of the day, the remote is in our hands.

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