The way we think about television has changed significantly. According to media scholars John Fiske and John Hartley, there is a strong argument in favour of television as being regarded as a ‘Highly Conventional Medium’. I certainly agree with them.
People have been using television in the United Kingdom since 1936. According to Television in the US: History and Production, television began entering the homes of American households in the late 1940s. Throughout the world, television has kept people informed as well as entertained them. Countries have shared programmes and televised films for many years. For example, the sitcom The Golden Girls, which ran from 1985 to 1992 on America’s NBC affiliate stations is often seen on British channels such as The Women’s Channel (TWC) or TVGOLD. The Netherlands even produced their own version as well. However, BBC’s long-running drama called Eastenders was often seen on American public television stations (PBS) from 1991 to 2010 before most British series were released on DVD’s in the US or made available through BBC America. Therefore, not only do television networks present various genres of programmes to viewers, but they also share such programmes with other countries. Viewers get a lot in regards to programmes as well as information from the television. Television has kept people in various countries informed of highly important information in regards to national emergencies, wars, elections, and disasters. During the 1960s and 70s and from 2003 to 2012, wars such as the Vietnam and Iraqi Wars were presented and televised to people so that they could understand the latest developments in regards to the fighting that was taking place. Therefore, it can certainly be argued that television is a medium and, according to Fiske and Hartley, it is a highly conventional medium.
Why is television a highly conventional medium? According to Hartley, a medium is a medium is simply any material through which something else may be transmitted. What is important to remember is that television is not just a box that sits in someone’s living room that waits to be turned on every evening after dinner so that the family can enjoy a good laugh or cry. As stated above, the television has more qualities than that as it informs people about what is happening in the world, from the daily weather to current and worldly events. Therefore, the information is the medium in which the information or entertainment passes through. It is one of the major mediums of sources of information. However, according to Hartley’s ideas about Semiotics (the science of signs), the physical object being the television and the signified (mental concept or idea), it is possible to look at television as a physical object or medium that we can touch or operate, that transmits mental concepts or idea that heavily influences people. Therefore, the medium conveys ideas or concepts about wars based on what is allowed to be seen on the medium/television. What is conveyed often influences people and can be seen as a tool that motivates people to doing things, such as purchasing a product, voting for a particular candidate. The US elections would be a good example of how television is a ‘highly conventional medium’ because in this case, it acts as an important medium that influences people into making powerful decisions that impact the world. The television is a normal or conventional method of conveying candidate’s ideas about how to best govern the United States, which is a major world power.
In can be argued that television conveys a type of reality or ‘norm’ to people. What is important to remember is that if certain realities are conveyed too often, what is being conveyed can loses its significance or cause people to take it for granted. A good example would be reality-based programmes, which have been broadcasted through the medium (our television) since television states came into existence. It can be argued that the news is a good example of reality-based television because news channels or programmes broadcast issues relating to current events. However, many would argue that certain news programmes and channels are biased and leans towards a certain political spectrum, such as right-wing or left-wing. Therefore, the actual ‘reality’ diminishes because of this as what has been conveyed cannot be trusted. I share this idea and there is striking evidence that suggests people are not trusting news outlets. Newsmax ran a story this year under the headline “Dick Morris: Fox News Grew More Biased Under Ailes in Recent Years”.
In conclusion, there is a strong argument that our television is a highly conventional medium in regards to how it conveys information and influences people. Television persuades as well as informs. It also causes the reality of what is being broadcasted to become distorted, but only if it is allowed.