Television in the United States
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Television is one of the major major mass media of the United States. In an expansive country of more than 300 million people, television programs are some of the few things that nearly all Americans can share. Ninety-nine percent of American households have at least one television and the majority of households have more than one.
History of American television
Television first became commercialized in the U.S. in the early 1940s, initially by RCA (through NBC, which it owned) and CBS. A number of different broadcast systems had been developed through the end of the 1930s. The National Television System Committee (NTSC) standardized on a 525-line broadcast in 1941 that would provide the basis for TV across the country through the end of the century. Television development halted with the onset of World War II, but pioneers returned to the airwaves when that conflict ended.
There were only a few dozen stations operating at the end of the decade, concentrated on the East and West coasts. The FCC began handing out broadcasting licenses to communities of all sizes in the early 1950s, spurring an explosion of growth in the medium. A brief debacle over the system to use for color broadcasts occurred at this time, but was soon settled. Half of all U.S. households had TV sets by 1955, though color was a premium feature for many years (most households able to purchase TV sets could only afford black-and-white models, and few programs were broadcast in color until the mid-1960s).
Many of the earliest TV programs were modified versions of well-established radio shows. The '50s saw the first flowering of the genres that would distinguish TV from movies and radio: talk shows like The Jack Paar Show and sitcoms like I Love Lucy. Stations across the country also produced their own local programs. Usually carried live, they ranged from simple advertisements to game shows and children's shows that often featured clowns and other offbeat characters. Local shows could often be popular and profitable, but concerns about product promotion and other issues led them to almost completely disappear by the mid-1970s.
Subscription television (such as cable and satellite) became popular in the early 1980s, and has been growing in significance since then- spurring the emergence of multinational conglomerates such as Fox
The U.S. has now moved to digital television. A law passed in 2006 required over-the-air stations to cease analog broadcasting by February 2009, but was delayed to June 12.
In 2008, there were an estimated 327 million television sets in the US.