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Related subjects: Engineering; Television

Background Information

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Braun HF 1, Germany, 1959
Clivia II FER858A (VEB Rafena, Radeberg, Germany), 1956

Television (often abbreviated to TV) is a widely used telecommunication system for broadcasting and receiving moving pictures and sound over a distance. The term may also be used to refer specifically to a television set, programming or television transmission. The word is derived from mixed Latin and Greek roots, meaning "far sight": Greek tele (τῆλε), far, and Latin vision, sight (from video, vis- to see, or to view in the first person).

Since it first became commercially available from the late 1930s, the television set has become a common household communications device in homes and institutions, particularly in the First World, as a source of entertainment and news. Since the 1970s, video recordings on VCR tapes and later, digital playback systems such as DVDs, have enabled the television to be used to view recorded movies and other programs.

A television system may be made up of multiple components, so a screen which lacks an internal tuner to receive the broadcast signals is called a monitor rather than a television. A television may be built to receive different broadcast or video formats, such as high-definition television, commonly referred to as HDTV. HDTV costs more than normal TV but is becoming more available.



Geographical usage

  • Timeline of the introduction of television in countries



Getting TV programming shown to the public can happen in many different ways. After production the next step is to market and deliver the product to whatever markets are open to using it. This typically happens on two levels:

  1. Original Run or First Run – a producer creates a program of one or multiple episodes and shows it on a station or network which has either paid for the production itself or to which a license has been granted by the producers to do the same.
  2. Syndication – this is the terminology rather broadly used to describe secondary programming usages (beyond original run). It includes secondary runs in the country of first issue, but also international usage which may or may not be managed by the originating producer. In many cases other companies, TV stations or individuals are engaged to do the syndication work, in other words to sell the product into the markets they are allowed to sell into by contract from the copyright holders, in most cases the producers.

In most countries, the first wave occurs primarily on free-to-air (FTA) television, while the second wave happens on subscription TV and in other countries. In the U.S., however, the first wave occurs on the FTA networks and subscription services, and the second wave travels via all means of distribution.

First run programming is increasing on subscription services outside the U.S., but few domestically produced programs are syndicated on domestic FTA elsewhere. This practice is increasing however, generally on digital-only FTA channels, or with subscriber-only first run material appearing on FTA.

Unlike the U.S., repeat FTA screenings of a FTA network program almost only occur on that network. Also, Affiliates rarely buy or produce non-network programming that is not centred around local events.



  • United States

Since inception in the U.S. in 1940, TV commercials have become one of the most effective, persuasive, and popular method of selling products of many sorts, especially consumer goods. U.S. advertising rates are determined primarily by Nielsen Ratings. The time of the day and popularity of the channel determine how much a television commercial can cost. For example, the highly popular American Idol can cost approximately $750,000 for a thirty second block of commercial time; while the same amount of time for the World Cup and the Super Bowl can cost several million dollars.

In recent years, the paid program or infomercial has become common, usually in lengths of 30 minutes or one hour. Some drug companies have even created "news" items for broadcast, paying program directors to use them.

Some TV programs also weave advertisements into their shows, a practice begun in film and known as product placement. For example, a character could be drinking a certain kind of soda, going to a particular chain restaurant, or driving a certain make of car. (This is sometimes very subtle, where shows have vehicles provided by manufacturers for low cost, rather than wrangling them.) Sometimes a specific brand or trade mark, or music from a certain artist or group, is used. (This excludes guest appearances by artists, who perform on the show.)

  • United Kingdom

The TV regulator oversees the TV advertising in the United Kingdom. Its restrictions have applied since the early days of commercially funded TV in the UK. Despite this, the demand from advertisers ensured that ownership of a commercial broadcasting licence was, at one time, likened by the TV mogul, Lew Grade, as a being a "licence to print money". The restrictions mean that the big three national commercial TV channels, ITV, Channel 4, and Five can show an average of only seven minutes of advertising per hour (eight minutes in the peak period). Other broadcasters must average no more than nine minutes (twelve in the peak). This means that many imported TV shows from the US have un-natural breaks where the UK company has edited out the breaks intended for US advertising. Advertisements must not be inserted in the course of any broadcast of a news or current affairs program of less than half an hour scheduled duration, or in a documentary of less than half an hour scheduled duration, or in a program for children of less than half an hour scheduled duration. Nor may advertisements be carried in a program designed and broadcast for reception in schools or in any religious service or other devotional program, or during a formal Royal ceremony or occasion. There also must be clear demarcations in time between the programs and the advertisements. The BBC, being strictly non-commercial is not allowed to show advertisements on television, the majority of its budget comes from TV licencing (see below).

Taxation or TV License

Television services in some countries may be funded by a television licence, a form of taxation which means advertising plays a lesser role or no role at all. For example, in the United Kingdom, and in many European countries, some channels may carry no advertising at all and some very little. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) carries no advertising and is funded by an annual licence paid by all households owning a television. This licence fee is set by government, but the BBC is not answerable to or controlled by government and is therefore genuinely independent. The fee also funds radio channels, transmitters and the online service. Advertising has been introduced to the internationally-facing website in a small way to fund broadband content delivered outside of the United Kingdom.


Some TV channels are partly funded from subscriptions and therefore the signals are encrypted before broadcast to ensure that only paying subscribers have access to the decryption codes. Some subscription services are also funded by advertising.

Television genres

Television genres include a broad range of programming types that entertain, inform, and educate viewers. The most expensive entertainment genres to produce are usually drama and dramatic miniseries. However, other genres, such as historical Western genres, may also have high production costs.

Popular entertainment genres include action-oriented shows such as police, crime, detective dramas, horror or thriller shows. As well, there are also other variants of the drama genre, such as medical dramas and daytime soap operas. Sci-fi (Science fiction) shows can fall into either the drama category or the action category, depending on whether they emphasize philosophical questions or high adventure. Comedy is a popular genre which includes sitcoms (Situation Comedy) and animated shows for the adult demographic such as Family Guy.

The least expensive forms of entertainment programming are game shows, talk shows, variety shows, and reality TV. Game shows show contestants answering questions and solving puzzles to win prizes. Talk shows feature interviews with film, television and music celebrities and public figures. Variety shows feature a range of musical performers and other entertainers such as comedians and magicians introduced by a host or Master of Ceremonies. There is some crossover between some talk shows and variety shows, because leading talk shows often feature performances by bands, singers, comedians, and other performers in between the interview segments.

Reality TV shows show "regular" people (i.e., not actors) who are facing unusual challenges or experiences, ranging from arrest by police officers ( COPS) to weight loss ( The Biggest Loser). A variant version of reality shows depicts celebrities doing mundane activities such as going about their everyday life ( The Osbournes) or doing manual labour jobs ( Simple Life).

One of the television genres, the children's and youth genre is defined by the audience, rather than by the content of the programming. Children's programming includes animated programs aimed at the child demographic, documentaries for children, and music/variety shows targeted at kids. There is overlap between the children's/youth genre and other genres, such as the educational genre.

Social aspects

Television has played a pivotal role in the socialization of the 20th and 21st centuries. There are many social aspects of television that can be addressed, including:

  • Positive effects
  • Negative effects
  • Gender and television
  • Politics and television
  • Socializing children
  • Technology trends
  • Suitability for audience
  • Alleged dangers
  • Propaganda delivery
  • Educational advantages

Environmental aspects

With high lead content in CRTs, and the rapid diffusion of new, flat-panel display technologies, some of which ( LCDs) use lamps containing mercury, there is growing concern about electronic waste from discarded televisions. Related occupational health concerns exist, as well, for disassemblers removing copper wiring and other materials from CRTs. Further environmental concerns related to television design and use relate to the devices' increasing electrical energy requirements. Some speculate that television is responsible for a "dumbing down" of modern peoples. Several articles have been written by numerous individuals, and watchgroups. One theory is that the passive state of the brain leads to a form of mental atrophy. While watching television the higher functions of the brain slow down and in some cases cease. There are ongoing studies to determine the risk of this passive activity.

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