Part 1: Television in the Past and Television in the Future

For those of you who may not know of the show , “Doctor Who” is a series which follows the adventures of a time-travelling extraterrestrial, commonly referred to as ‘the doctor’ and his companion. The show originally ran from 1963 to 1989, but was later relaunched in 2005 and continues to air to this day. The episode which I want to discuss in this blog post, titled “The Idiot’s Lantern” is the 7th episode from the second season of the recently revamped ‘Doctor Who’ series, and is set in the 1950’s around the time of the Queen’s coronation. The most striking aspect in the episode which I want to explore is the aspect of communal television, which is prevalent throughout the episode.

The story of this episode revolves around a sinister alien force which uses the television signal to feed on humans, who are eagerly anticipating the live coverage of the Queen’s coronation. The historical context of the television is much more fascinating  than the story its self. The 1950’s was a time when television was a new form of technology, and was much more of a communal event, where families would watch programmes together, as opposed to watching whatever we want, by ourselves online. This episode brilliantly illustrates, through the costume and set design, the role of the  television, as something that brings friends and families together.

Since the 50’s, different forms of technology have become available and even today, scientists continue to look towards the future and by living in an era of tablets, smart-phones it begs two questions :

1 -Is the television relevant anymore?

2 – How can broadcast  television maintain an audience?

In order to fully determine whether traditional television consumption  is still relevant, it is important to observe the trends that are occurring within the television landscape. The 2015 1st quarter report on Australian multi-screen trends, published by Oztam (a research firm dedicated to collect television ratings data). Surprisingly, the report states  that “across the population and screen types, 88.4 per cent of all viewing takes place on the TV set” (Oztam, 2015, pg. 2). As surprising as this statistic is, it is important to note that the data was collected just as Netflix had been introduced in Australia, and therefore had a quite limited amount of content.  However, the report also found that the consumption of shows online had increased ever so slightly and that “11 percent of all video viewing – both broadcast and non-broadcast content – happens on screens other than the TV” (Oztam, 2015, pg.2). So, from the evidence above, it is clear that online television is becoming a serious force that will not only make broadcast television obsolete but  also isolate us completely from our families and friends. The question remains: How can broadcast television maintain an audience?

In an increasingly crowded market, broadcast and traditional television has struggled to compete with online streaming services to maintain an audience.I, myself, hardly ever watch television anymore (with the exception of sport). Since its introduction in Australia, Netflix has personally changed the way I consume television. So, how does broadcast television fight to maintain an audience? Well, one way in which free-to-air television has fought to keep up with VOD services such as Netflix is by ‘fighting fire with fire’. Every free-to-air channel, with the exception of channel 9, each have their own on-demand service which allows audiences to view previously aired content. Yet, despite this attempt to keep up, broadcast television is still struggling. If you ask me personally, traditional television was inevitably going to become obsolete as technology continues to evolve. One day, it may be possible that online streaming faces a similar battle. But right now, the future is bright for online steaming…

A group of young British children watching television in October 1988. (Photo by Express/Getty Images)
A group of young British children watching television in October 1988. (Photo by Express/Getty Images)

References:

AUSTRALIAN MULTI-SCREEN REPORT.” Oztam, 2015. Web. 24 Oct. 2015. 

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