• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

This book by two leading experts takes a fresh look at the nature of television, starting from an audience perspective. It draws on over twenty years of research about the audience in the United States and Britain and about the many ways in which television is funded and organized around the world.

The overall picture which emerges is of: a medium which is watched for several hours a day but usually at only a low level of involvement; an audience which views mainly for relaxation but which actively chooses favourite programmes; a flowering of new channels but with no fundamental change in what or how people watch; programmes costing millions to produce but only a few pennies to view; a wide range of programme types apparently similar to the range of print media but with nothing like the same degree of audience ‘segmentation’; a global communication medium of dazzling scale, speed, and impact but which is slow at conveying complex information and perhaps less powerful than generally assumed.

The book is packed with information and insights yet is highly readable. It is unique in relating so many of the issues raised by television to how we watch it. There is also a highly regarded appendix on advertising, as well as technical notes, a glossary, and references for further reading.

How Programs Reach Us
How programs reach us

Traditionally, television has been broadcast on a small number of terrestrial over-air channels from fairly local transmitters. The organization and funding of such channels differ by country. Nonetheless, the way in which viewers choose programs from the channels is much the same.

As we show in Chapter 6, people tend to spread their viewing across several channels rather than being loyal to just one channel. For instance, there are virtually no ‘CBS-only viewers' in the USA nor ‘BBC1-only viewers’ in Britain.

Technological developments are now leading to more ways of viewing television. Two of these, multi-channel cable and video cassette recorders (VCRs), have already achieved wide penetration in some countries. Direct broadcasting by satellite (DBS) may be about to do ...

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