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News Events in the History of TV
In chronicling the past 50 years of television, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences includes many clips from historical events that were carried on television. Including these news events is appropriate to the history of television because the advent of this technology brought the nation and world together in times of tragedy and joy via the 'global village' created by this medium. The events that changed our world also changed the world of television. It can be argued that it is not necessary to include world events when discussing the history of television, simply because they were not created for television, but television created programming to include it, but this is a narrow-minded view of the medium that is television. The fact that the entire world was able to be brought together and be educated about world news at the same time was a revolutionary thing.
Rather than television changing the course of human events, human events changed the direction in which television programming was headed. Prior to television, people found out about happenings through word of mouth, or newspapers at best. This new media source brought a sense of immediacy to current events. The inclusion of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the montage from the Emmy awards shows a critical turning point in television news. Prior to this event, news on television was not as important to citizens because nothing so monumental had been broadcast that affected as many people. This changed the basis of television news from small, local, everyday events, to coverage of worldwide occurrences that had a deep impact on everyone.
Some may argue that these news events should not have been included in such a short montage of the history of television. Clips from such events as the Vietnam War and the crash of the space shuttle Challenger were not part of television. They were part of the military history and NASA, respectively. Simply because they were broadcast on television does not make them part of television history. Television began as an entertainment medium, and continues to entertain as a primary function. The broadcast of news events is part of television, but should not be considered so important as to be included in such a compact history.
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This is a very closed way of looking at things, however, as these events not only changed history, including television, but changed the people who witnessed them through the eye of the television camera. Events such as the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the moon landing were viewed worldwide through the immediacy of television. These events were not changed by television; television was changed by them. The initial turning point of broadcast news was the assassination of President Kennedy. Never before had so many viewers tuned into the same program at the same time. Coverage of the tragedy lasted for four solid days. As quoted from Marya Mannes in Barnouw's Tube of Plenty, 'This was not viewing. This was total involvement.' The majority of US citizens were informed of the shootings through television, and that is what they remember of the tragedy. Television changed the way they saw the world.
Current events are an extremely important part of the history of television. They not only affected millions of people in a way not possible before television, but the sight of these events on television is what impacted the people the most. Granted, these events occurred outside of a television studio and were not made for television, but they were covered by television and remain a vital part of it. The 'global village' envisioned by early pioneers of radio had indeed come to fruition through television and the news events covered by the medium.