Emergence of Television as a Mass Medium and Leisure Time
Early in the twentieth Century the advent of public radio broadcasting
brought cheap and effortless entertainment into the homes of millions
of people. The invention and use of television as a means of
channelling information on a wide scale was revolutionary. The world
had recognised how influential and useful a tool the radio was in
disseminating information and entertainment to the masses. The
inventors and founders of this communication revolution could not have
foreseen the effect that audio-visual broadcasting would have.
Television pictures brought to life what the audience could only
imagine before. As television technology improved the experience of
watching the television became altogether more real thus more
influential on the lives of those who watched it.
"Gentlemen, you have now invented the biggest time-waster of all time.
Use it well."
Isaac Schoenberg - head of the Marconi-EMI television development team
most probably did not anticipate when saying this that over seventy
years on, watching television would become the most popular leisure
activity almost worldwide. In 2002 around 85% of men and women watched
television everyday with full-time working adult males spending an
average of 5 hours a week watching television in their free time. The
population on average spend 17.1 hours per week watching television.
Compared to the 39 minutes the same (and vast) group spend reading for
pleasure - it clearly highlights the massive popularity of watching
television as a leisure activity. Barwise and Ehrenberg illustrate
"Ifâ€¦. a typical viewer's total viewing during the year were laid end
to end, it would fill two months, January and February say, for 24
hours a day!"
This quote describes a main aspect in the cultural experience of the
majority of Westerners. It appears that social class is an important
factor, which has significant implications for the amount of
television viewed. Statistically, the working classes or 'the masses'
watch more television than those of a more privileged social
background. People of a lower class (group DE) watch TV on average
approximately 20.2 hours per week compared to the average viewing time
of the higher class individual (group AB) which amounts to 13.5 hours
a week. This high percentage of 'ordinary people' watching television
as a pastime could be explained simply.
"(The television) provides continuous and rapidly expanding flows of
information and leisure." (Studying the Media )
The television set has now become a relatively cheap commodity
therefore around 98% of the population have at least one. Television
programming is therefore highly accessible, viewers having the ability
to switch on their set at any time of the day potentially...