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the admission of love, history of a TV romance

July 16, 2010

I am having an affair; it’s been a long-term relationship that dates back to my earliest memories, a love so pure and so true that it transcends time and space. Yes I am happily married and of course my wife knows of this affair it’s not an illicit or clandestine type of sordid affair that you read about in celebrity gossip magazines or that is dissected and analysed across the airways on television and radio, no not at all, I am truly deeply in love with my television. I want you to share with you the history of my affair, for I am coming clean and I am openly professing my love and shouting it out for everyone to hear.

I remember the early days of the old black and white TV holding pride of place in the corner of the lounge room, a majestic piece of technology beaming out the latest adventures of the “Brady Bunch” or Maxwell Smart and agent 99 from “Get Smart”, this was a magical experience that I never wanted to end. Once the radio had like the player piano did before it, engaged families around the globe, but we now we had the TV and the radio was to be banished to the car the TV was the new king of the family lounge room and it was staying put.

In Australia we lagged a little behind the rest of the world and television did not hit our shores until 1956, it arrived on our doorstep to showcase to Australians and the rest of the world the sporting phenomena that is the summer Olympics games, held for the first time in the southern hemisphere in Melbourne Australia. It is often said that for television to work you need good content and the Olympics games and sport in general has most definitely proved this proposition to be true, and so it was in 1956 on the 16 September in black and white and from the studios of TCN-9 Sydney that Australia’s love affair with the TV would begin. My affair would not begin for another 10 or so years but the foundations set that day ensured it was already a very successful medium and from the time I first set eyes on it I knew it was to be an object of my desire for long time to come.

I have enjoyed the journey down the path of life with the TV my trusted companion always there for me, but like I have television has grown up a lot since its first humble beginnings. By the seventies we finally saw the joys of the rainbow with introduction of colour and by the end of the eighties going out no longer meant you had to miss the latest episode of “Miami Vice”. The eighties saw the mass market introduction of the personal video recorder trumping a new freedom like never before, now we could record our favourite shows to watch latter and even better we could now keep them, the personal video library was now a reality similar to the joys of owning a copy of our favourite artists record album.

Initially Hollywood was sceptical of this new medium sure it offered convenience but it also offered consumers the ability to fast forward through the advertisements, and this was how TV made its vast income and this income also flowed in torrents to the wealthy studios and production houses that made the content that people so wanted to watch. If people could skip the ads then this these torrents of wealth might very well end up a mere trickle down a stream and this would not do. The narrow-minded executives thought the VCR was going to bring an end to their well crafted distribution model and armed with copyright in hand they rushed off to the courts to have this disruptive piece of technology banned. Fortunately they failed and in the now famous case; Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the device was allowable for private use.

The irony of this despite Hollywood’s fight against the device in the years following this decision, the film companies found that sales of video recordings from their vast back catalogue as well as new product coming to market became a new and in time a major income source see we were also willing to buy to add to our personal video library. Following that temporary hiccup technology has known no bounds when it has come to improving the humble TV, we have seen stereo and wide-screen added to the mix, and then DVD, Blu-ray and the PVR improved on the video cassette recorder. We have witnessed the introduction of digital TV, high-definition and the proliferation of large screen plasma and LCD screens, the sound systems also grew in complexity as the technicians at Dolby Labs keep adding and improving on the in home experience with surround sound and sub woofers that could rumble a solid stone statue to sand in mere minutes.

The other big change and I think improvement to the television landscape was with the introduction of pay TV, now this is where the history diverges a tad for the US readers pay TV first began there in 1948 so it even proceeded the introduction of TV in to Australia, we over here in our neck of the woods were not to see our first subscription TV service until the mid nineties with the introduction of Galaxy TV transmitted on a microwave platform. Since then we have seen the emergence of satellite and cable delivery platforms with Galaxy being acquired by Foxtel and the microwave platform all but discontinued with the majority of city dwellers being serviced by cable offered by Foxtel or Optus and regional subscribers connected by satellite services provided by Ausstar. Foxtel has seen phenomenal growth in its short history and is a now very profitable business for its owners with over 1.5 million subscribers offered in excess of 60 premium channels. Foxtel also offers its subscribers a PVR called the IQ that allows customers to record, pause, fast forward and rewind content as well as other consumer friendly options like on demand movies and a preview content section, all the free to air channels are offered on the Foxtel platform and  many households across Australia don’t see need for any other equipment apart from the trusty TV and maybe a games console or two.

Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft have also been on a conquest to capture the heart and minds of gamers everywhere with their latest high-tech game consoles and the game console is now an integral and important adjunct to the TV as the VCR used to be. These devices no longer just play games no these are DVD/ Blu-ray internet connected devices that can play music and video as well as stream content from the internet. These devices are as much a challenge to the old-established media platforms as the internet, these devices have the potential to be an all in one portal allowing all mediums to converge in one.

So it has been a little over 10 years since the dominance and control of the hears and minds of Australians television viewers was challenged by pay TV, but at the same time that the established media broadcasters were being challenged by upstart subscription television services their also was some thing else on the horizon that was going too challenge the old guys like nothing else that had come before it was going to be a formidable opponent, it was the internet. The world shrunk with the introduction of the internet, we were now connected to the world and we knew what was going on real-time, not television executive time, and so suddenly it was not OK for channel nine to pretend a tennis match from Wimbledon was live when it had actually taken place 3 hours early. We also found out that shows that were proclaimed as a brand  new episode only freshly made had actually aired nine months earlier in the US and then the ability to download TV moments after they had aired in any remote location anywhere on the earth. The illegal downloading of television took off and suddenly TV viewers did not have to wait to next year to get their fix of the “Sopranos” it was available to down load almost immediately. It was not long before devices were able to stream this content on your computers hard drive to a media player connected to your TV.

So here we are today I am still very much in love with my TV it’s a 42 inch LCD connected to a Foxtel IQ and a Sony Pay Station 3 and I still have an old style PVR that I rarely use. I know the adventure and affair is not over I am sure my lover has plenty still to give, I know 3D is here, but I think I will move a little slower, as we just enjoy each others company, this ride, this affair it has given so much, that I just wanted to share with you all , for yes it is true and I will shout it from the hilltops “I love my television”.

I hope you have enjoyed a recap of my life with TV, what do you think? Are you in love with a TV as well? Please leave a comment love to know what you think.

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