TV is a huge of part of almost all of our lives, it offers a medium from which we can get our news, draws inspiration for all those office water-cooler conversations. It has the power to make us smile, make us weep, make us feel more informed, make us angry, unite us, divide us. It has allowed us to be more connected to the world around us, it has brought so many important events into our homes, both inspiring and depressing. TV allowed us all to witness the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it allowed us to take those first steps into freedom with Nelson Mandela, it sadly brought us all too close to those horrific events on the 11th September, 2001.
Now I personally have never been a fan of the bashing of TV, never been a fan of those who labour under the delusion that by not owning a TV, one becomes a superior human being. After all, it is not the TV itself that ‘dumbs people down’, it is what they choose to watch on it. There are plenty of intelligent, engaging programmes around that allow people to become engaged in for example politics, the natural world around us, to educate us about history, about engineering, about science. There are even some quality dramas around, which can both entertain and engage us. Even the news, obvious agendas aside, is still a useful way to allows us to keep up to date with current affairs. TV isn’t just about shallow, vacuous pesudo-reality shows, its not just about an endless stream of insipid talent shows, there is still plenty of engaging, interesting content to be found on the box in the corner of the room. (Disclosure, I do enjoy light entertainment quiz shows such as The Chase or Pointless, I never claimed to be a role model!)
Rambling aside, do I think TV is still relevant in this digital age? In a word, no. The purpose that it once served, bringing the world into your front room, can now be served much quicker through using the internet. If you want to read the news for example, you can now almost instantly read whatever story you were interested in within seconds. Thanks to social media and YouTube, you can get even closer to any breaking news around the world, and you can see the stories for yourself, rather than through the eyes of a national news organisation with whatever agenda it has. The internet age is allowing more and more of us access to real, factual accounts of events and lets us put our own interpretation on them rather than viewing someone else’s. Even in terms of entertainment, the internet age is slowly winning over the age of the TV. Online streaming services (such as Netflix, my own particular choice) allow people the choice to watch what they want, when they want. Whilst the selection is limited to whatever the servers host, people can still find whatever they like in there and watch it instantly, without adverts and they can watch as much as they want in one sitting. In an age where people have less free time, online streaming allows the viewer more control. Rather than having to stick to TV scheduling, people can watch their favourite shows at a time which is convenient to them. On a personal level, I only ever really watch the television for football or any other big sporting event. My entertainment mainly comes from sources such as Netflix, or through catch-up TV services such as the BBC iPlayer. I even enjoy some original content creators online, both via YouTube and Maker/Blip or through their own websites. I also still have a decent collection of DVDs, which provide the same function that online streaming does in that I can watch what I want, when I want.
The internet allows all of us to access everything instantly, whatever news or entertainment we desire. When we are able to access everything now, why wait until the TV schedules will show something? Why wait for the news bulletins at 6, or why wait for the 24 hour news cycle to cover a story when we can just go online and in seconds find out the information we want?
However I’m sure this discussion was had when TV took over from radio and yet radio still carries on today, strong as ever (granted mostly through people at work or people travelling). Television won’t ever completely die, I feel we will still turn to television during the big events of the day, whether they be news, or sports, or entertainment. But for most of our everyday lives, the internet/social media/streaming is now king.