The power of television | Sunday Observer
World Television Day falls on November 21

The power of television

A TV studio camera being operated
A TV studio camera being operated


We all love watching television, especially the cartoons, children’s programmes and the science and wildlife documentaries like the ones shown on Discovery Channel. Your parents may sometimes caution you against watching too much television instead of studying. They might even say that you can watch only an hour or two hours of television per day. But there is no escaping the power of television. It is easily the most powerful communications medium in the world today.

When the Sri Lanka cricket team plays a match in England, we can watch it instantly or ‘live’ from our armchair in Colombo. When US President Donald Trump addresses a rally in Arizona, we can see it ‘live’ from anywhere in the world. In short, television has made the world a smaller, more connected place.

On November 21, the world celebrates the power of television on World Television Day. Television was introduced to Sri Lanka in 1978 – there is a whole generation of

Glued to a TV set during study time?

Sri Lankans who literally grew up with television. I was only eight years old then and the moving pictures on a small screen was a huge novelty. We did not have a TV at first, so we went to neighbouring houses to watch Sesame Street and cartoon shows.

For most people, television has become the prime source of news and entertainment – including infotainment and edutainment, two new terms used to describe the value of television as an information and education tool. After a hard day’s work, TV helps us to catch up with the day’s news and relax with a musical programme or teledrama.

Television has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the 1920s. Only black and white pictures were possible in the early days but a colour broadcasting system called NTSC was developed in the 1950s in the USA. Europe and Asia added colour much later, but their systems (PAL and SECAM) were much better.

Television set technology has also developed rapidly. Many of you might not even remember the bulky Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) televisions. All households now have super-thin Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) televisions. OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) is another emerging TV technology. The progress of television was aided by a slew of other technologies such as tape recording, better cameras and of course, communications satellite technology based on a prediction made by futurist science fiction author Arthur C Clarke in 1945.

These geosynchronous satellites have made it possible to telecast ‘live’ events from anywhere in the world to all other parts of the world.

Be it wars, natural disasters or sports, you have a front row seat to watch it as it happens. Today, satellites are also used to beam programmes directly to our homes (Direct To Home Satellite Broadcasting). We are also no longer bound by the timings of TV stations – Personal Video Recorders (PVR) make it possible to time-shift programmes, which we can watch later. You can also watch many TV channels from around the world on the Internet.

Television is a window to the world, but there is a dark side to it as well. Both adults and young people can get addicted to the so-called idiot box and ruin their lives.

There is an inordinately large amount of violence on the small screen. There have been many instances where children have attempted to imitate these depictions, with tragic results. It is thus vital for parents to control their kids’ access to television. After all, there are a lot of good programmes too on TV, from nature documentaries to classroom lectures. The parents must select only the good programmes.

Television has also become a threat to family bonds too. I know of many families where they do not talk to each other once the TV set is turned on. They even have dinner seated on the sofa, riveted to the action and dialogue on the small screen. This is not a healthy trend. A family should have TV-free time to enhance their bonds. But used wisely, the TV is a tool for education and fun.