Local TV culture has always been a bit weird in that the sense that for the longest time we had three main channels of sorts that aired nationally, until we got another one in the late 90’s and then another one in the 2000, and lately we’ve seen steady change in the channels into a more American model, where you need special card to access these channels. Prior to that everything else was either in limited airing for certain areas or you had to have a satellite dish for all the extra channels. As such very few channels have died off from the national air, and the only examples I can think of is MoonTV and partially regionally aired PTV.
Why are you bringing all this up? Mainly because I’ve been reminiscing of old TV-shows lately for some reason and it has made me thought that is it true that television has become worse with the time? I hear people constantly telling me that they don’t watch TV or dislike doing it, and yet these same people tell me how good shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and How I Met Your Mother are. Then you have your Newsroom and numerous documentaries airing as well as numerous news items that handle current issues locally and around the world as well as all the humour programs, of which one of them is based on Have I Got News for You has been running on our national TV since 1998.
So, as long as we look at the local TV, and the selected program it runs, TV hasn’t changed all that much in quality. Only the viewers have grown and their tastes have changed.
What has changed is how TV is watched. Nowadays everything is on-demand services like Netflix or gained via different services, illegal or not. These services are not limited to a television screen anymore as they’re now quite literally on any device that has a screen, from any computer to game consoles. There’s a screen everywhere and anywhere, you can’t escape it. Television isn’t just in your living room anymore, it has invaded your pockets too. You can see people watching TV shows on their laptops during lessons, from their smartphones in buses and from their ‘pads wherever applicable. As long as the TV channels are able to keep up with the changing ways TV is being watched and how people are asking for the shows be there at their convenience rather than through timed airing, TV isn’t going anywhere.
With the change this convenience has made TV faster than ever before and thus reflecting our modern world a bit too well. We have our content whenever we want, we can access it wherever we want and it’s there the moment we want it. Viewers can plough through hundreds of episodes and dozens of seasons within few days without patience. Twenty tears ago it was a madman’s thought to click a button and see the show you missed without a VCR or BetaMAX, and it was laughable to think you’d able to get your hands on recordings of a show that hasn’t aired in your region, unless you knew certain people who knew certain people. 2000’s have seen a huge change in these dynamics due to Internet and further freed world markets. DVD alone has dropped complete series and movie prices to a new low that people are buying these discs to their shelves and never really watch them. I can’t think anyone doing these with the VHS, but I know a lot of people who recorded whole show airings, including me. How many of you still have whole TV-series in your shelves? They take significantly more room than DVDs, don’t they?
Have you ever seen the movie Videodrome? It is a story about the then-current American television entertainment and its relationship with its viewers. While you’d think that it is an outdated flick at this point of time, it’s actually pretty damn relevant.
How much have you integrated technology into your daily life? Do you use Facebook extensively? How about Twitter? Do you carry a smartphone with you all the time? How much of it is part of you, the physical you? Believe it or not, the New Flesh is already a reality. As much as I’ve heard people talking about not being slave to the screen (ie. the TV) in their homes, they still carry one in their pocket and watch the same TV shows from another screen (ie. the computer screen.) There is no difference from where you watch TV really, only the method and politics behind it has changed. Piracy on TV-shows is as common an any Internet torrenting. It’s not that TV has been dying or the shows have become bad, it’s that there is far higher number of shows from to choose from, and you can freely choose from these shows whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want.
Is a person who watches television the traditional way any less free than the person who decides to stream or download his programs? Is the person any more free of TV when they buy Dexter’s last season to fill their collection than the person who just saw the last episode on air?
TV affects us, no doubt about that. As long as television has existed in its modern form, it has had an effect on people outside its range as well. For example, a rather new national news item program called Docventures launched Meatless October campaign to promote awareness on unethical food production, and I know numerous people who have decided to take part in this despite them not even owning a television set to watch the program from. As much people shouldn’t underestimate the power of the Internet, people shouldn’t underestimate the power of TV, despite its age.
I do enjoy watching TV and the programs it has to offer. There is a balance of good, decent and total bullshit programs from my personal point of view. One show that I despise with adamant hatred will be the highlight of the evening for another person. Even the ancient Romans agreed that it’s useless to debate on personal tastes, but I’m sure that we all agree that the best thing any channel can offer is a steady and large variety of different types of shows aimed at different audiences, or numerous channels mainly catering to certain target audiences. There is no gain in pushing out just one type of show over and over again in a short period of time.
Perhaps the question is that how long will it take to television to completely transcend what it used to be into the next form, and what it will be. I could see a total integration of on-demand services to everyday devices in such a scale that the traditional TV basically exists everywhere you go without any problems, and that traditional TV will integrate the newfound tech into itself completely. Both of these have already happened on some level, and the future of television might be something a mere viewer like myself can’t even really see from this side of the screen.