Michelle Karns, Tyler Grimes,
Casey Nishimura, and Reynold Price
“Information, knowledge, and culture are central
to human freedom and human development.
How they are produced and exchanged in our
society critically affects the way we see the state of
the world as it is and might be; who decides the
questions; and how we, as societies and
polities, come to understand what can and ought
to be done” (Benkler, 2006, p. 1).
Photo courtesy of fanpop.com
By the late 1930s, radio was woven into the fabric
of American life. It allowed millions to enjoy
public events in the comfort of their own home
Adding picture was the next logical step.
By the 1950’s, television had already become the
main medium for shaping public opinion (Diggs-
Brown, B. 2011).
Although the electronic television was demonstrated to the
public by Philo Farnsworth in 1928
(Discovery.com), “technical difficulties, corporate
competition, and World War II postponed its widespread
introduction to the public until 1946” (History.com).
Photo courtesy of The Guardian
In 1945 the the first experimental microwave relay
system was introduced by Western Union between
New York and Philadelphia. This distribution
system transmitted communication signals via
radio along a series of towers (FCC.gov).
Between 1945 and 1948, the number of commercial
television stations grew from 9 to 48 and the
number of cities having commercial service went
from 8 to 23 (FCC.gov).
Television sales increase 500% (FCC.gov).
There was an initial introduction of a color
television set in 1951, but production was stopped
because the federal government ruled the color set
used strategic material necessary for the Korean
War effort (Butler 2006).
In 1954, the color television was introduced by
RCA in the United States (Butler 2006).
Color TVs took more than a decade to reach a
significant number of households(Butler 2006).
Color became the dominant television set in 1966
Prior to the mid-1950’s, television
was transmitted “live” or recorded
on film on a kinescope recorder.
A specially adapted 16-mm or 35-
mm motion picture camera filmed
the program from a high quality
monitor as it went to air. The result
was poor by today’s standards.
In 1956, Ampex introduced its VR
1000 “quad” video tape recorder
This physical technology led to a
change in organizational technology
by allowing high-quality television
production to happen away from
the New York studios (FCC.gov).
Kinescope recorder recorded
images on a video monitor (left)
using a film camera (right).
Source: Canada Science and
In 1970, Robert Maurer, Donald Keck, and Peter
Schultz invented the fiberopticwire, which carries
65,000 times more information than a conventional
copper wire (Lemelson-MIT, 1997).
In 1981, HNK developed the first 1,125 HDTV
system. Sharpness is a function of lines across the
screen to constitute the picture.
60 years before Jenkins and Baird had been broadcasting
at between 30 and 60 lines.
40 years before the standard was 525 lines (FCC.gov).
Ultra-HD 4K television technology is now
available, boasting 4096 x 2160 resolution.
Over the past decade, closed-captioned television
has introduced millions of hearing-impaired
viewers to the television (FCC.gov).
V-Chips have enabled parents to control the
content of what their children watch (FCC.gov).
Now, digital video recorders (DVR) are changing
the way people think about financing and viewing
of television programs (FCC.gov).
The television has become a staple of American
culture. Virtually every household in the United
States has a television set, and many have more than
It is interesting that no one person can be credited with
inventing the television. Over the course of a few
years, many inventors added their contributions to
make the television possible and improve
Charles Francis Jenkins - In May of
1920, Jenkins introduced prismatic
rings that would replace the shutter on
a film projector (Early Television
Allen B. DuMont - In the 1920’s,
DuMont developed a cheaper version
of the cathode ray tube (CRT), which
would last for thousands of hours -
much longer than the German version
of the CRT, which would only last for
25 to 30 hours (Early Television
Photo courtesy of earlytelevision.org
Vladimir Zworykin - In December of
1923, Zworykin applied for a patent
for the iconoscope, which would scan
pictures to produce images. He later
developed a new tube called the
kinescope, which is the basis of
modern day televisions. The first
entirely electronic television system
was formed using these two
inventions (Early Television
John Logie Baird - In 1924, Baird was
able to transmit simple face shapes
using a mechanical television (Early
Dr. E.W. Alexanderson - On June
5, 1924, Alexanderson was able to transmit a
facsimile message across the Atlantic Ocean
for the first time. In 1927, Alexanderson used
high frequency neon lamps and a perforated
scanning disk to demonstrate the first home
reception of the television (Early Television
Ulises Armand Sanabria - In January of
1926, Sanabria was the first person to use
interlaced scanning to transmit a television
picture. Using a triple interlace
method, Sanabria was able to reduce the
flicker in a picture (Early Television
Philo Farnsworth - Farnsworth was a
specialist in cathode-ray tubes andtheir
use in televisions. Farnsworth's first
application for a patent was for an
electronic television system, which
included an image dissector tube used to
scan images for transmission. At the
receiver end, an oscillitetube received and
showed the picture. Farnsworth’s
multipactor, which was an electron
multiplier tube, increased the image
dissector’s sensitivity (Early Television
David Sarnoff - In 1928, Sarnoff
launched the NBC television
station as an experiment, and by
1939, Sarnoff was able to
demonstrate the success of his
station at the World’s Fair in
New York (Early Television
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org
Manfred von Ardenne - von Ardenne
began experiments using CRT receivers
in 1930. With mechanical scanners, he
produced good quality images using
CRTs. In April of 1931, von Ardenne
invented the flying spot film scanner. It
produced a 60 line picture using a
horizontal scan rate of 1500 Hz. and a
vertical scan rate of 25 Hz. An 8000 volt
power supply was used on the
CRT(Early Television Museum).
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org
Rene Barthelemy - Barthelemydeveloped
a mirror drum 30 line mechanical camera
which was used in the first
demonstration of the television to the
public on April 14, 1931. By the end of
1934, his work with 60 line technology
paved the way for the first official
television broadcast by France, which
took place on April 26, 1935. On
December 2, 1935, Barthelemy broadcast
his first 180 line television programs
using a mechanical camera
and electronic receivers(Early Television
Photo courtesy of centrosangiorgio.org
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
was established by the Communications Act of
1934 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and
succeeded the Federal Radio Commission
The purpose of the FCC was to “make available so
far as possible, to all the people of the United
States, without discrimination on the basis of
race, color, religion, national origin, or
sex, rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide
wire and radio communication services with
adequate facilities at reasonable charges” (47
In terms of regulating television, the FCCimplements rules
and regulations as well as “establishing broadcast
regulatory policies through the individual cases that we
decide, such as those involving license renewals, station
sales, and complaints about violations of FCC rules”
Image courtesy of arstechnica.com
In the early history of
television, the structure of
the radio was followed
allowing corporations to
sponsor and produce shows
By the mid
1940’s, advertising was
taking over, and the
purpose of the television
became selling things
Photo courtesy of BettyCrocker.com
In 1928, Charles Jenkins
received the first U.S. television
license from the FRC for station
W3XK in Wheaton, Maryland
In 1930, Jenkins aired the first
television commercial and was
fined by the FRC (FCC.gov).
Beginning in the 1950’s, corporations would
produce and sponsor television
programming, which would include a one minute
With programming becoming
expensive, advertisers realized that 30 second ads
were also effective and show would be sponsored
by multiple products (History.com).
Eventually, networks became
fed up with sponsors
controlling the shows
Networks began to eliminate
sponsors and sell advertising
programs, which led to the
commercial system we have
today (Ezinearticles.com). Photo courtesy of 10minutesofbrilliance.com
To Inform, Entertain, and Influence
Photo courtesy of tvasylum.com
Television is a mass communication tool that was
initially used to add images to radio-style
programming. It was utilized to disseminate news
and information and provide entertainment.
The primary purpose of television remains
relevant, but capitalism and technological
innovations have transformed how television is
According to Kellner (1981), television produces
both profit and ideology, maintains
hegemony, and encourages the status quo.
Kellner (1981) notes how television networks and
advertisers have capitalized on the technology.
Set the agenda for news and information.
Dictate forms, values and ideologies of entertainment
Promote capitalism, consumerism, and social conformity.
Exert political influence.
Influence consumer demand and values.
Provide revenue that impacts network decisions.
networks not only
influence citizens of the
United States, but
According to Kellner
(1981), they have a global
impact on values.
Kellner (1981) asserts that American network television
is “one of the most far-reaching communication
apparatuses and entertainment transmitters that have
ever existed” (p. 31).
Photo courtesy of theawl.com
According to Kellner (1981), the military, politicians,
and corporations all have used television to solicit and
disseminate their messages to the public.
Photo courtesy of EmploymentgGuide.com
Advertising has long leveraged television’s influence to
market products and build brands. Some popular icons
include Betty Crocker, Ron Popeil, and the Pillsbury
Doughboy. Shopping networks are now common on
Image courtesy of Housewares.org
With the continual development of new
technology, including LED screens, faster refresh
rates, numerous peripheral devices, 3D experience, and
Ultra-HD 4K television sets, one might expect to see the
purpose and use of television to continue to develop.
Photo courtesy of Digital Trends
Modern televisions are compatible with a variety of
peripheral devices that complement the medium and
provide additional functionality. Below are a few
Video game consoles
Blue ray players
Digital video recorders
Although televisions were initially a one-way
communication device, today’s smart TVs feature
Internet connectivity, allowing users to access a
wider variety of content and achieve bidirectional
Computer monitors and cell phone screens are an
adaptation of television technology.
Television imaging technology is used in a variety
of medical equipment to provide visual support
that was not previously possible.
How Lady Justice Changed the
Photo courtesy of Sculpture Gallery
The FCC was given its
authority to regulate the
scarce broadcast airwaves
because the airwaves were
seen as public property
(O’Malley, M. 2004).
The FCC had the power to
censor obscene material
and maintain fair political
programming across the
spectrum. Photo courtesy of MSNBC
The FCC also mandated that a percentage of the
television broadcasts be for public use and not for
In the early 1950’s, obscene and indecent content
was prohibited by the FCC (O’Malley, M. 2004).
Obscene content is defined
subjectively, as follows:
"the average person, applying
standards, would find that the
material appeals to the prurient
interest; that the material describes
or depicts sexual conduct in a
patently offensive manner; or taken
as whole, the material lacks serious
literary, artistic, political or
scientific value" (FCC.gov).
Photo courtesy of growthnation.com
Indecent content is defined as:
“language or material that, in
context, depicts or
describes, in terms patently
offensive as measured by
standards for the broadcast
medium, sexual or excretory
organs or activities”
Image by Eric Drooker
Profanity is defined as “including language so grossly
offensive to members of the public who actually hear it
as to amount to a nuisance” (FCC.gov).
Profanity is also restricted on broadcast television
between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Image courtesy of play.google.com
Television law historical highlights:
In 1941, the National TV Ownership Rule
prohibited ownership of television stations that
covered more than 35% of homes.
In 1946, the Dual Television Network Rule
disallowed major networks from owning another
In 1964, the Local TV Multiple Ownership Rule
mandated that station ownership would be limited
to one per market unless there were eight stations
in the market.
More television law historical highlights:
In 1970, a restriction was put into place prohibiting
the ownership of both a TV station and radio
station in one market.
In 1985, the rules for non-advertising programs
and advertising-per-hour were abolished.
In 1987, the Fairness Doctrine was eliminated.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 reduced
previous restrictions on TV station ownership,
which led to an increase in media consolidation.
1. The FCC was established to ensure that all Americans
would have access to communication networks.
2. In mid-2009, television broadcasts went digital, which
required users to purchase a converter box or upgrade
to a new digitally-compatible TV set.
3. Coupons for converter boxes were available from the
government, but according to Condon (2009), millions
of households were waiting for coupons in early
2009, prompting the DTV Delay Act, which postponed
the deadline until June.
4. Satellite and cable services were hard to come by in
many rural areas, which prevented competitive
pricing and negated universal access.
Television creates manufactured consent, which
according to Herman & Chomsky (1988), generates
public support for powerful special interests that
influence government and business.
Chomsky told Jhally (1997) that control over economic
and regulatory concerns resides in the hands of a select
group of large corporations and investment firms that
set the agenda for other media sources.
Government has historically influenced television
messaging, as revealed in Hughes’s (2007)
documentary for PBS, Buying the War.
The agenda setting theory of McCombs and Shaw
applies to television because as Griffin (2012)
notes, “The mass media have the ability to transfer the
salience of issues on their news agenda to the public
Television, a dominant communication medium, has
set the agenda for political thought and activity for
decades, possibly limiting democracy.
Although new technology enables Internet access from
TV sets, and a wider variety of digital programming is
available, agenda setting remains a concern.
According to Graham and Marvin (2001):
Expensive infrastructure services like broadcasting
help support politics and develop and sustain
varied cultural identities.
Private firms and governments partner to build
infrastructure in affluent areas where the greatest
return is expected, rebalancing tariffs.
Disadvantaged groups, who might benefit most
from new technology, may be excluded due to
location and higher access fees.
According to Neuman (1982), advertisers played an
important role in content development by spending
more than $12 billion on television ads in 1980 alone.
Competition existed among networks for
Ratings directly correlated to advertising revenue.
Start-up costs were high, which discouraged new
networks from being created and limited
Graham and Marvin (2001) assert that:
Because of television’s influence, global
capitalism, private business, and consumer
demand, increased programming and access
options are available.
Digital divides continue to be created between
those who have access to communication networks
and those isolated from them.
According to Kellner (1981), “American television is
rooted in the economic process of corporate
capitalism” (p. 32) and has a complex system of
production and distribution.
The chart on the right
shows the growth in
and indicates that more
than 66 million
households owned at
least one television by
1973. Today most
own multiple TV sets. <1% in
1947 9% in
Households with Televisions
Morrisette (1973) noted that children in the early 1970’s
had come to expect television access due to its
Photo courtesy of MakeMoneyInLife.com
Neuman (1982) reported that television was the most
dominant form of mass media in America in 1982.
98% of households had a television.
The average daily usage per home was 7 hours.
Typical adults watched 4 hours of TV daily
(equivalent to 8 years over an average lifespan).
Usage among all demographics was growing.
Possible implications were just beginning to be
Kellner (1981) called television “one of the most powerful
social forces in America” (p. 1), and it remains so today.
American dependence on television has continued to
grow, with television programming available on the
Internet and via mobile devices.
Televisions dominate public spaces like
restaurants, bars, and airports.
Concerns exist regarding the effects that excessive
viewership and violent programming have on society.
The Today Show recently reported on the prevalence
of TV binge watching, which you may view here.
According to Kellner (1981), television has come under
pressure by under-represented groups to more accurately
depict their identities and experience, but a lag exists
between social changes and their integration into television
Photo courtesy of TMP Muckraker
Neuman (1982) asserts that “Television is socially
defined as the culture of the masses” (p. 472).
The medium is the message, according to
McLuhan (1964), which explains television’s rapid
dominance and emergence as a universal pastime.
Democracy may be negatively impacted by limited
content choice, agenda setting, and message
framing, resulting in cultural homogenization.
Due to advertising and product
placement, television strongly correlates to
Television increases access to
art, education, humanities, sports, politics and
more, although according to Benckler
(2006), content is limited by owners of
infrastructure and media.
Meals are often centered around
television, reducing important face-to-face
The use of peripheral devices for gaming and
access to content outside traditional broadcasts
increases television’s ability to provide variety and
connectivity to communication networks.
The costs of new television technology create digital
divides, but the technology enhances information
access for those who can afford it.
Since mid-2009, television has been broadcast
exclusively in digital format.Those with analog TVsets
must use a converter box toaccess programming.
New smart TVs are connected to communication
networks via cable or satellite service providers and via
the Internet, which increases freedom of choice and
expression by providing access to a variety of mass and
independent media sources.
Benkler, Y. (2006). The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom. New
Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Butler, J. (2007). Television: critical methods and applications. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum
Canada Science and Technology Museum. (2013). The collection: Television. Retrieved from
Condon, S. (2009). Obama signs law delaying digital-TV translation. CNET. Retrieved from
Diggs-Brown, B. (2011). Strategic public relations: An audience-centered approach. Boston: Wadsworth.
Early Television Museum. (2013). Television pioneers. Retrieved from
Federal Communication Commission. (2005). Historical periods in television technology. Retrieved from
Graham, S., & Marvin, S. (2001). Splintering urbanism: Networked infrastructures, technological mobilities
and the urban condition. New York, NY: Routledge.
Griffin, E. (2012). A first look at communication theory. (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Herman, E. & Chomsky, N. (1988). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media.
New York: Pantheon Books.
History Channel, (2013), Radio and television. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/radio-
Howstuffworks, Tv and radio. Retrieved from http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/why-cable-
Hughes, K. (Producer). (2007). Buying The War [DVD]. Retrieved from
Jhally, S. (Producer, Director). (1997). The myth of the liberal media: The propaganda model of news
[Video]. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation. Retrieved from
Kellner, D. (1981). Network television and American society: Introduction to a critical theory of
television. Theory & Society, 10(1), 31.
Kimmel, J. (2013). Jimmy Kimmel Live: This week in unnecessary censorship. Los Angeles, CA:ABC.
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ6xBSnFdg8
Lemelson-MIT. (1997). Robert D. Maurer, Donald B. Keck, and Peter C. Schultz: Fiberoptic
communications. Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/MaurKeckSchul.html
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. London: Routledge.
Media Bureau. (2008). The public and broadcasting. Washington, DC: Federal Communications
Commission. Retrieved from http://www.fcc.gov/guides/public-and-broadcasting-july-
Morrisett, L. (1973). Television technology and the culture of childhood. Educational Researcher
Neuman, W. (1982). Television and American culture: The mass medium and the pluralist audience.
Public Opinion Quarterly 46(4), 471.
O’ Malley, M. (2004). Regulating Television. George Mason University.Retrieved from
Parkman, D. (2013). History of the media, radio and television. Retrieved from
Public Broadcasting Corporation. (2004). Media Regulation Timeline. Retrieved from
United States Code. (2006). Telegraphs, telephones, and radiotelegraphs.Retrieved from