ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Television Innocence Lost

Updated on September 10, 2020

TV's Early Years

In July of 1941 commercial television first began broadcasting in the United States. In December 1941, the United States entered World War II. From 1942 to 1945, sales of TVs and most public broadcasting operations were suspended. With respect to war efforts, entertainment and free enterprise historically (prior to 1960) had generally, although not uniformly, supported the involvement of the U.S. in international conflict. World War II was a landmark of solidarity for the U.S., both nationally and internationally. The war also gave birth to a new generation that would eventually become dissatisfied with much of life in America and around the world. Right or wrong, this new generation would open the door to social upheaval, and television would both display it and guide it.

In its early years television programming revolved around sporting events, and short newscasts which primarily covered the war in Europe.The slow development of television technology during the war years resulted in only six experimental stations in five major cities. It wasn't until 1947 that commercial television began to expand with programming evolving from news and sports to Milton Berle and Jack Benny. Popular radio programs were adapted for television, and "Howdy Doody" led the way in children's programming. Animation started with a simple Mickey Mouse cartoon short, and has since expanded into the seemingly limitless reaches of human imagination.

As television markets expanded in the late 1940s advertisers jumped on board in large numbers. "The Ed Sullivan Show" popularized the variety series, and "Meet the Press" brought news conferences to larger and larger audiences. In the 1950s "I Love Lucy" ushered in filmed situation comedies. Television shows had previously been live productions. The TV game show became popular when "The $64,000 Question" debuted in 1955.

Some of the Game Show Prizes Awarded by Television Sponsors:

  • Money (from small cash prizes to millions)
  • Cars (sub-compact, luxury and sports cars)
  • Vacation trips (theme park tickets to round-the-world cruises)
  • Appliances (from televisions to washers and dryers)
  • Groceries
  • Clothing
  • Personal "makeovers"
  • Home improvements and services
  • A "Dream House"
  • A college education
  • A Dream Date
  • Pets
  • Television guest appearances
  • Toys and board games
  • Dinner and a Broadway Show

The Fascination


   It may be worth noting at this point that the U.S. Department of Commerce recognized television's advertising influence in the 1949 statement: "Television's combination of moving pictures, sound and immediacy produces an impact that extends television as an advertising medium into the realm of personal sales solicitation." That advertising power clearly drove programming expansions, and as the number of available channels today would indicate, the programming and advertising possibilities are limitless.


Social Menace?

   Television was not universally welcomed in it's developmental years. It was once proclaimed by Sir John Reith of the BBC to be "a potential social menace of the first magnitude." He compared it to smallpox, bubonic plague and the Black Death. The question then is, has TV achieved that undesirable potential? Some evidence would indicate so. The impact of media on society can only be estimated, however if one considers the money involved in television advertising, it would seem that its influence is great. With that accepted, the material presented to its viewership could be very powerful.

   It has been said that television programming reflects society. Merchandise sales associated with various television shows makes it clear that it also influences society. Hair styles and fashion trends are other examples of media influence. Toys, video games and breakfast cereals are sold to kids by TV stars and cartoon characters. Cars, personal care products and insurance for adults are sold to us by television personalities. The advertising power of television has expanded with increasing commercial time. Entertainment has evolved to appeal to changing audiences. As senses adapt, new stimuli are required to maintain viewership. The differences between early and modern television programming might be most obvious if examples of each were shown back-to-back... Something like this:

  • "Ozzie and Harriet" followed by "Baywatch"
  • "I love Lucy" followed by "Desperate Housewives"
  • "Dragnet" followed by "CSI"

   As the years pass and society changes, the old norms and ideals recognized in radio and television have taken a place in the category sometimes called "oldies", "antiques" or "vintage". They no longer stimulate viewership and sales. The viewer/consumer now expects and purchases media saturated in explicit violence, sex and profanity. We are no longer entertained by Little House on the Prairie or Pong the video game. We require more for stimulation; and when we get more, the more desensitized we become. As if in a cycle of addiction, we need more, and we're willing to pay for it.

Mind Control?

 CC BY-SA 3.0
CC BY-SA 3.0

The Reality Balance

The creation of television absolutely contributed to societal change. It seems lately that every major technological breakthrough we experience is communication related. As population expands we have to bring the world closer to experience prosperity. Communication and sharing of information are the keys to that. But innocent benevolent endeavors so often fall prey to corruption; and profit and pleasure become the goal of so many of man's advancements.

Development of a good future should be a significant consideration in every endeavor. Television doesn't have to be merely a twenty-four hour source of pleasure. News, information, education and entertainment can be balanced. But human beings often have trouble with balance. Television should reflect reality without creating it or distorting it; and the weight of the advertising gold that is available in the medium of television too often controls the quality and social value of the product that is ultimately delivered to children.

The Powerful Television
The Powerful Television

Entertainment Today

Television is now just a slice of society's entertainment pie. Programming is streamed as well as broadcast. News, weather, sports and entertainment is available 24 hours a day, and on demand. Even the physical structure of the "set" itself no longer resembles the bulky heat-generating "tube" of old. Televisions are slim flat panels in a wide variety of sizes, light enough to hang on any wall. They are cable, satellite, and internet ready with digital audio. With all of the changes in broadcasting and programming, television remains the main audiovisual advertising medium by which consumers are reached.

Your Assignment For Today:

Go back in time... use Google if you need to... use YouTube find an old television show, and compare it to something you know well, or something very popular of today. Drop the comparison in a comment to add it to the article.

Have fun with this!

© 2011 Mr. Smith


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)