8 Television theory

The Theory of Television Is the definition of television as a socio-cultural phenomenon (phenomenon and institution), a list of its main qualities (properties), a description of its current state and the prospect of transformation into hypnosis Description.

Use and social impact

Many sociological researches have dealt with the moral, social, cultural and political effects of TV ( Agenda setting ; Cultivation theory ; Cultural studies ; Communication research; Effects of the media ; Spiral of silence, etc.). The t. it has become an integral element of daily life to the point of profoundly revolutionizing its rhythms and contents, even if ‘watching TV’ is not always the same as ‘watching TV’, that is, paying careful attention to it. Recent statistics indicate in the USA an average daily family listening of six and a half hours, of which 40% passive (ie television on but absent or discontinuous attention); even the European averages do not differ much from these values. The activities of leisure and free timepre-televisions are profoundly modified or transformed. Decreased the time for conversation, social exchanges, reading books and newspapers, listening to the radio, attending clubs, clubs and theaters, taking care of hobbies. This decrease is decidedly attenuated after the first years of owning a television, without however returning to the previous level.

  1. Cinema and t.

Another important consequence of the expansion of television consumption all over the world has been the collapse of the frequency of cinema shows, with the relative crisis of the ‘theaters’ of public exercise and the conversion of the film industry towards other forms of use, to start with the television one. The cinema has been forced to seek, for the cinema circuit, alternative trends with respect to that of pure entertainment – once its almost exclusive prerogative and now occupied by TV – and seems to find them in the great show, based on amazing ‘special effects ‘, in the pornographic film, in the author’s work, at low cost, etc.
The collective imagination , once a tributary of cinema, is now hegemonized by t., with its stars and its ‘cultural models’.

  1. Opinions on the television medium

What is the overall opinion on the influence of TV, half a century after its mass diffusion? Scholars’ theses can be schematically divided into two broad categories.
On the first side it is observed that the t. has offered and offers the possibility to large masses all over the world, isolated from the cultural circuit of large urban centers and from primary sources of culture and entertainment, to connect with dimensions and experiences that would have been precluded to them: “TV has made every evening on a Saturday night, “observes Percy Tannenbaum (1980).
Against Gerbnerand scholars at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication attribute t. the responsibility to inculcate fears and anxieties in the spectators, “cultivating” in them ( cultivation hypothesis ) a distorted perception of the real world, creating, in other words, real couch potatoes . ( Video addiction )

  1. T. and minors

In particular, there are complaints about the negative effects on the immense audience of minors and adolescents, both due to the occupation of ‘free time’ (subtracted from play, sports, dialogue with family and adults), and for the contents and emotions offered (sex, violence, the myth of money and success and, before that, the proposal of binding social models shaped by the consumer industry on generically American standards). The philosopher Karl Popper particularly warned, as far as minors are concerned, against the addiction to violence, proposed in repeated and very frequent daily messages from the ‘bad teacher t.’ ( Minors and mass media ).

  1. T. and cultures

According to anthropologists, the intensive and almost exclusive hammering of television programs based on particular social models would also lead to the rapid decline of the traditional cultures of those peoples in the Third World, a phenomenon that has already occurred in Europe, introducing a consumerist subculture.

  1. The ‘global village’

The fact is that the massive presence of tea, for fifty years now, has produced a whole series of consequences. As far as communication is concerned, it can be seen how the language of the image integrated by sound has become for everyone a second mother tongue and the only language common to different peoples.
Furthermore, the language by association of images has become predominant in the techniques of persuasion, rational and occult. In advertising but also in politics. Disruptive facts that we should not be surprised by. Never, since the invention of verbal language, has there been such an integral, integrated and widespread mass medium.
Marshall McLuhan , the so-called media prophet, stigmatized the gap between what he called the Gutenberg galaxyand Marconi galaxy . Until the beginning of the twentieth century – said the Canadian scholar – our culture lived within the Gutenberg galaxy, in the culture of ‘printed paper’ and books, of individual and solipsistic study. But since the beginning of the twentieth century we have passed from the Gutenberg galaxy to the Marconi galaxy, that is, culture is formed through an interpersonal universe of Herzian waves that come and go, that involve us all and bind us all together. Therefore – McLuhan concluded a bit apodictically – the new culture will be more shared and more democratic, because t. has turned the world into a global village‘, with relative undeniably positive consequences, such as the universal dissemination of information and the circulation of ideas, becoming a more important source of socialization and cultural unification than schools and families.
There remains the fear that the ‘television mediation’ between the viewer and reality could end up completely replacing the latter, a fear paradoxically stigmatized by Woody Allen: “Of course, cinema is inspired by reality. But the problem is that reality is inspired by reality. TV.” The user does not watch TV but ‘participates’, Mc Luhan notes again. Everything that happens in the world without the presence of TV is destined not to affect reality and history. The t. it is the ratification of itself, it becomes more real than the real.

  1. The production-use relationship and new technologies

The panorama that we have briefly drawn is perhaps destined to change in the very near future due to a series of factors that are already operating, such as the multiplication of broadcasters, no longer limited to national public or private networks, but including cable TVs (the television signal runs along a coaxial cable, similar to what happens for telephony or cable broadcasting, therefore television circuits with a more limited but specific diffusion), pay-TV or subscription TV (therefore broadcasters with specific and specialized content reserved for users interested in certain programs, which are provided with a suitable signal decoder ), the t. interactive(possibility of interaction, question and answer, between user and producer). The ever greater flexibility and ease of use of amateur and professional cameras ( Camcorder , shooting and recording on cassette in a single device), makes each user a potential or real producer. Furthermore, the vast diffusion of the video recorder , which allows the user to select the programs most pleasing to him from the various schedules , involves the parallel diffusion of pre-recorded video cassettes ( Home video), etc. All these new facts allow the individual viewer and groups to build their own t. and to use the television not as a tap from which one is forced to drink the water, but as a library from which to choose the most useful volume or the one most suited to one’s interests and needs.

  1. Institutional structure

We can define ‘institutions’ as organized entities, of a permanent nature, tending to satisfy certain needs of society. They concern different areas: politics, economics, expressive-integrative, family ( Emittenza ).
If TV and the mass media in general are included in the expressive-integrative area, there is no doubt that they also exert a marked influence on other areas, therefore on various sectors of social life (Zanacchi, 1994).

8.1. Institutional models .
The television institution can be conceived and structured according to various models, as regards purposes, organization, controls, etc., in relation to the socio-economic, political and legal conditions of the different countries.
Everywhere the ether is recognized as a ‘public good’ – through which the transit of electromagnetic waves takes place – which belongs to the States, each of which, according to international agreements, is entitled to use certain ‘frequencies’. In turn, the States can reserve this use or grant it to other subjects, public and private.
If in totalitarian countries all mass media are managed or controlled by the dominant regime, in the United States the mass media have always obeyed a private concept ( FCC): a management entirely entrusted to private individuals, who tend to obtain an economic profit, means that the cost of the organization and of the programs is entirely covered by advertising revenues. As a result, the areas most populated by potential consumers are better served. In Europe, from an initial concession regime for the radio and television service to a single publicly owned company, financed by a compulsory fee, supplemented in some cases by advertising, there has been a shift to a ‘mixed’ public-private system. Mixed systems between public and private are present today in almost all parts of the world: from Great Britain – where next to the historic BBC, which manages two channels, there is the ITV commercial network to which Channel 4 and Channel 5 have been added, moreover strictly regulated – Japan, France, Germany, Italy.

8.2. The Italian situation .
Also in Italy there has been a shift from a concession system to a single company, Rai , to a ‘mixed system’, following the ‘spontaneous’ proliferation, but initially not permitted by law, of the t. commercial and private since the seventies. This has actually led to an oligarchy regime, in which the strong Fininvest pole has been active since 1980, alongside Rai (with three channels), a public-private company controlled by the state and managed with the proceeds of the license fee and advertising. Mediaset(Canale 5, Italia 1, Rete 4) – as well as a vast network of t. minors, commercial or otherwise.
In 1990 the so-called Mammì law (law no.223 of 6 August), after a heated debate and a tormented parliamentary process, defined the new ‘public and private radio and television system’, failing to go beyond the formal codification of the system that it was realized in a spontaneous and sometimes savage way ( Communication System ). The debate for a new legislative arrangement of the matter is still ongoing, while Law 206 of 1993 had provided for “the redefinition of the radio and television system and publishing as a whole to be implemented within two years” (ie by mid-1995!) .

8.3. Need for new rules .
As regards the Italian institutional structure, the need emerges to radically reconsider the basic choice between a purely economic vision of radio and television activity and a concept that takes seriously its enormous social and cultural responsibility as well as its ability to compete, if adequately disciplined, to social and civil development.
In a note released in 1987, the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications of the CEI, had issued, in view of a future law, a whole series of interesting indications that could be summarized as follows: ordering the frequencies to allow the maximum number of broadcasters to coexist; study effective anti-monopoly legislation; subordinate the granting of direct and interconnection to antitrust guarantees; not to waste the wealth of experience of the public service; put limits on advertising; safeguard minors.

  1. Language and genres

Given that language must be understood as every means man uses to communicate with his fellow men, the language of t., Composed of moving sound images, derives directly, as regards grammar and syntax, from that of cinema .

9.1. Reality and language .
Also and especially with regard to the t., Which seems to put us in direct communication with the different aspects of reality (the so-called ‘window on the world’), it is necessary to specify how every language is nothing but a translation, a mediation of reality, carried out through a ‘system of signs’ (Vendryes) behind which the conscious action of a mediator is always present. Another is a particular moment of reality, another is its translation in terms of television language, even in those cases (eg a football match) in which the translation seems to be almost imperceptible.

9.2. Elements of the TV language .
Constitutive elements of the television language are therefore, in the first instance, those characteristic of the cinematographic language, born fifty years earlier:
– theshot , understood as the portion of space ‘framed’, i.e. delimited by the camera lens: this shot, which must be considered in a certain sense the ‘basic word’ of the language of images, can vary and take on a different meaning in relation to various factors, namely: the lens used ( Photographic lens: wide angle, normal, telephoto), the lighting (natural or artificial; direct, diffuse, cutting, backlight, etc.), the angle (the point of view where the camera is placed), the movements of the machine (trolley, climb, railway, etc.);
 assemblywho, in juxtaposing different frames, gives them particular meanings and determines the rhythm and the logical and emotional sequencing of the story;
– sound , i.e. dialogue, the word ‘off screen’, noise, musical commentary, etc.
These constituent elements, already identified and fixed by the cinematographic language, are used to implement a ‘communication’ that follows a very different path, namely that of ‘distance transmission’ and ‘domestic use’, and which therefore imposes a different meaning on them. and different criteria of use. Hence the initial need to derive from the other already existing medium, which involves a similar type of fruition, that is radio , formulas and ‘genres’.

9.3. Television genres .
The term genre , already used for fiction and theater, indicates a grouping of products of artistic creation according to certain contents (sentimental, dramatic, comic) or certain areas of entertainment (variety, comedy, film, ballet) or certain story schemes (thriller, soap opera, thriller, pink) or certain characteristic formulas (sit-coms, game shows, etc.).
From the beginning of its programming, TV appropriates the distinction already adopted by the radio and divides the genres into three major chapters or macro- genres : information (news, debates, news on cultural events, interviews, news), culture and cultural dissemination(concerts, music, art exhibitions, readings, theater, ‘originals’), entertainment and shows (magazine, variety show, film, comedy and of course the broad chapter of sport).
Within each macro-genre we work on the elaboration of formulas for new programs, storytelling schemes, etc. The attempt to identify types of spectacle and entertainment based on the structural characteristics of the medium, on the so-called specific , is immediately evident , around which a strong debate at the level of criticism and theory arose in those years.
In the initial phase, the word will belong mainly to t. American, for which it will be easy to use professionalism and workers from the rich cinematographic experience and, in general, from a managerial conception of information and entertainment.
The first formulas identified will be the telefilm , that is the short film, often with recurring characters, the situation comedy or sitcom , or situation comedy, conceived for a single environment reconstructed in the ‘studio’ with a few fixed characters acting live, the teleplay , or dramatic creation written specifically for the t., game show , or game and quiz show .
New genres will gradually be added to these first ones, sometimes devised by US TV, other times by t. from other countries. Like the historical reconstruction investigation and the scripted novel ; the talk show , the word show; the soap opera and its Brazilian variant of the telenovela , popular novels with a very high number of episodes – no less than a hundred – and strong melodramatic content … ( Fiction ; Telenovela ; Teleromanzo )

9.4. Genres and neo tv .
Since the Eighties, the US model, which has become a winner in more or less all the countries of the world, also thanks to the ability to invade the markets with exportable programs, has ended up causing a different and fairly stable programming structure. It is customary to speak of neotelevision to indicate today’s TV, characterized by frequent advertising interruptions, programs supported and promoted by one or more sponsors, zapping made possible by the remote control and so on. In relation to this new structure, a consequent change in the panorama of ‘genres’ is determined, characterized by some constants:
a) confusion of genres. While information tends to become spectacular and increasingly become ‘the news show’ ( infotainement the new union between information and entertainment has been defined), culture tends to disappear or blend into short segments of a new type of proposal, the container , generic entertainment program within which there is a continuous transition between different genres; moreover, the talk show , from the traditional sphere of costume, invades the terrain of debate and political controversy, as well as that of ‘infinite’ discussions and competitions of a sporting and football nature;
b) from the macrogeneri and from the genera we now pass to the microgeneres, i.e. in small units of a few minutes (the game, the confession, the news, the cultural event, the artistic exhibition), ‘contained’ in a generic program which finds its element of unity in the ‘management’ by of a conductor ;
c) consequently the ‘TV of genres’ becomes the ‘TV of conductors’ (i.e. anchormen ) who can ‘manage’ information such as the show, as well as the advertising promotion of a product, without the passage being reported or noticeable. The language of television, which benefits from increasingly easier shooting tools as well as refined editing performance, seems to settle more and more decisively on the modules and ‘styles’ of the advertising message, aggressive, fast, made of ellipses, based on images in which the boundary between reality and electronic and digital sophistication becomes increasingly blurred, with a charged soundtrack , in short, a language made more to seduce than to convince.

10 Production and programming

In terms of messages, it should be noted that, after an initial purely experimental period, TV soon became a means of widespread dissemination of the most diverse contents and materials, initially modeling itself – as regards the information and entertainment formulas – on the other medium of transmission over the air that already exists, namely on the radio.

10.1 The organization of the schedule .
With the strong relaunch and affirmation of the medium, after the Second World War, we are witnessing an attempt by the various broadcasters to organize an articulated program of television programming ( Palinsesto) which envisages, on the one hand, the dissemination of pre-existing audiovisual materials (i.e. films and cinematographic documentaries), and on the other, to a quantitatively greater extent, the production of original materials, attributable to the three major chapters: information, cultural dissemination and entertainment. The schedule of the programs will be the result of the distribution of these different types of broadcast over each day and must take into account the categories of public most frequently available at specific times as well as the preferences of the different categories, ascertained through various types of research.

10.2 The shooting and editing technique .
The technique of shooting an entertainment or a show soon settles on a fairly defined and constant line: the action or situation is set up in a television studio , similar to the cinema one, and are recorded simultaneously by two or more cameras . During the preparation, or during the rehearsals, the director prepares the shooting situation and assigns particular tasks, movements, objectives, shots, etc. to the different cameras. During the shooting, the images of the various cameras arrive on the television screens ( monitors ) of the control room and the director selects from the mixer desk
the image that will be broadcast (or recorded), alternating the various images between them and thus creating a sort of live montage. This working scheme still remains valid for the numerous live or live productions , even if today the construction of a television program is susceptible to a more refined elaboration thanks to the adoption of recording and post – production systems . We remind you that editing or editing in post-production, that is the equipment that makes it possible to edit the recorded tape, reaches a reliable and sophisticated technique not before the seventies (in 1963 AMPEX had proposed its first editing unit electronic, EDITEC).

10.3. National televisions and US dominance .
But already at the end of the fifties the various t. operating nationals arrive, through parallel and independent paths, to the identification of their own formulas and genres that take into account individual cultures and traditions. While eg English BBC excels in the production of programs cultural dissemination ( educational ), documentary scientific, drama in ‘small screen’ version, Italy develops the field of drama novel , the magazine varieties and ‘ historical inquiry, and the United States continues the production of serial programs with a very high number of episodes.
‘National’ differentiations that, from the seventies onwards, will gradually be canceled due to the prevalence on the international market of American programs, a replica of a phenomenon that had occurred in cinema around the thirties and fifties: America offers bass programs. cost, of medium quality level, based on narrative standards that are easily understood at all latitudes. Thus, while the TV conquers new spaces and creates real events, the range of proposals and formulas seems to be drastically reduced.
The ability to remotely switch the various channels on the TV, thanks to the remote control, will then trigger a real listening hunt ( audience ) – to encourage and increase the sale of advertising spaces – and further homologation of the programs which, given the speed of excursion between the various channels ( zapping ), must be immediately recognizable and able to capture attention in a fraction of time, therefore standardized according to fixed and repetitive codes.

10.4. The news, the direct .
Alongside the dissemination or entertainment programs, an increasingly important segment is occupied by information or, in general, by current events , by ‘ direct‘: the diffusion of major sporting or competitive events, politics, facts of life, news, disasters, wars …
The ability to allow a large audience to follow major events live, which seem to acquire greater relevance precisely because of being televised ( Media events), has caused a profound revolution in costume. In 1960 the duel between Nixon and Kennedy for the election to the US Presidency was resolved in favor of the latter thanks also – or ‘above all’ according to some – to his greater telegenia. On November 22, 1963, American viewers witnessed the assassination of their President live and two days later that of his alleged assassin. In 1965, for the first time, humanity experiences a ‘live’ war – that of Vietnam – through television images. On 21 July 1969 we witness, always live, the landing of Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin on the lunar surface: media events destined to multiply in the following years.

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