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Convergence Of Broadcast Tv And Internet Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 3993 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The long-indicated convergence of broadcast TV and internet is reaching a tipping point. Viewing TV text via internet has changed PC savvy TV viewer’s expectation dramatically. The rise in synchronized use of internet and TV has resulted in a unique off screen and on screen relationship of users with TV content (Grady, 2010). Grady’s view of Television describes ‘onscreen’ engagement of audience with online TV content and ‘off screen’ interaction amidst peers and friends that Jenkins (2000) terms as ‘water cooler conversations’. The onscreen and off screen experience together brings ‘the sociability factor’ among viewers that supports the water cooler conversation. TV cultivates sociability in many ways (Lull: 1990) for instance, TV plays a vital role in constructing and maintaining interpersonal relationship amongst family and social units. Likewise, when TV content is viewed on websites and other networking sites, it sparks sociability amongst users that influence users to react in numerous ways. For instance, Spoiler fandom of TV shows ‘Survivors’ was one of the forms of users that used ‘sociability’ to spoil the show. Although, fandom is not the only form practiced on networking sites, but many more that influences users to build a community around a specific TV content.

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Online TV content cultivates sociability in networked communities and gives a platform to practice Mc Luhan’s (1874) living room experience. But online sociability has charted changes in traditional concept of TV and audience. As Fiske (1987: 63-4) states “revaluation of viewer requires a revaluation of text”. Hence such a convergence needs to be studied in context to dramatic changes in TV industry such as changes in production, distribution and content management. This section of my literature review highlights dramatic changes in TV and TV entry in a post network era. The section also makes a general understanding about TV culture and TV (content) flow. A separate section discusses proliferation of TV text across social networking sites and social use of technology with relevance to online viewing.

1.3.1 Television Concepts

Fiske (1987:1) defines TV, a “bearer/provoker of meanings and pleasures, and of culture as the generations and circulation of variety of meanings and pleasures within the society.” TV as culture is deeply interwoven in our society that it persistently produces and reproduces; meanings and pleasures and their distribution influences audience to behave in a desired way. ‘Meanings’ are interpreted differently by audience and are part of ‘flow’ of TV that are experienced by viewers ( Fiske: 1987,15). Audiences are makers of ‘meaning’; consume TV text as ‘readers’ that are capable of producing meanings and pleasure with respect to socio-cultural frameworks ( Fiske: 1987,17). Therefore, to understand audience, TV needs to be understood as culture and a flow that extends meanings and pleasures to ‘meaning makers’ in social structures.

TV as Culture

Culture is complex and difficult to understand, it signifies set of values acquired by set of social groups that results in patterned behavior. Theorist like Richard Hoggart (1957), Raymond William (1958) and EP Thompson (1968) has contributed much to the concept of culture. Hall & Jefferson (1976, hall.et.al) states, culture is multi-faceted and plural that contains element from past and layers within it. A culture is a culmination of past and present that shapes existing ideas and insights in a society. Culture is diverse, versatile and contains popular forms of dominant culture in a society (Matthew, 1869).

As Turner, explains culture is part of our lives that are so powerful and unquestioned that it almost goes invisible and unnoticed (Turner, 1990). Similarly TV and its text has become integral part of our culture that induces ‘viewers’ to become ‘readers’. Television, its content and the industry forms significant aspects of our culture that affects social structures in many ways. TV has become one of the primary forms of culture in most industrialized society (Kompare, 2002).

TV as flow

Williams (1958) determines flow; a technology and a cultural form. Flow in context to TV, refers to the movement from one program to other or from one segment to the other. Network channels (producers) hold audience via flow of TV text from one interesting segment to another interesting segment making flow ‘continuous’. Kompare (2002) explains flow, a broadcasting property that constitutes the overall experience of broadcasting on the minds of audience. Network channels use’ flow’ as a strategy to overcome gaps created by commercials and public message; to grab the attention of audience to fill up those gaps and breaks by moving to another program or a segment of a program making viewing experience as ‘effortless endless’ experience. Gaps are the visible characteristics that define television experience. Williams (1958) believed gaps are not ‘mere gaps’ but are planned breaks that happens because of interaction between television and audience, he termed it as ‘planned flow’. Flow relates to the ‘appointment based television’ that involves audience to experience, TV as an endless narrative flow that intensify their ‘continuity’. Continuity engages and sustains audience that results in economic exchange, gratifying needs of ‘network channels’ (advertisers) and ‘audience’. Engagement with TV results in ‘cultural capital where as financial front releases ‘economic capital’ that is necessary for TV to function as ‘culture good ‘and’economic good’. Flow is an essential concept for the growth and survival of TV as culture in a social structure.

John Ellis, John Fiske, Jane Feuer, Richard Dinest, John corner and many others have challenged the operations that Williams described in the process of contributing to the formation of discursive field of ‘flow’ (Urichho, 2004). Corner (2003) argues ‘flow’ is a pessimistic discourse of TV culture that disregards television characteristics as a diverse medium. Ellis (1982) discusses the scheduling of different genres of programs that are organized in a TV network should be focus of study. His argument focuses on schedule (time) other than programs (flow) as determined by Williams and emphasizes how a different genre of programs gets fit into scheduling of television by organization of time is more relevant than movement from program to program. His way of determining flow underlines the concept of audience that engage themselves in different ways, provided what has been offered to them. This signifies not only how time handles text but how time passage in the text has imbrications on the life who viewed a particular content. Thus, time is an important factor in the study of TV flow.

Flow to be understood in present TV culture, it needs to be studied in relation to current advancement in technologies and new digital systems that has converged different mediums at a single platforms. With introduction of converging technologies, so called ‘mass’ communication mediums , including TV does not always flow ( Kompare : 2002). TV has come long way from traditional form of viewing TV text that was ‘time based’ and ‘continuous’. New media offers content as flexible package than continuous narrative wiping away factors such as when, where and how that has charted changes in the identity of television as culture.

Urichho (2004) sketches flow, a fundamental shift in the interface between television and viewer and so in the viewing experience. He describes ‘flow’ as an interface and explains how the introduction of metadata system and filter technologies has resulted into a new kind of interaction that suggests TV has entered to a new phase. New devices have provided tools to capture television text and produce ways of asynchronous viewing that has altered the interaction of medium with the culture in many ways (Lotz: 2007:35). New mechanism to view varied TV text has charted changes in the concept of ‘flow’ making it flexible and malleable. The current phase shows us deepening convergence of technologies at single platform and TV’s shift from broadcasting to other modes of carriage like VOD, cable, satellite has given an opportunity to distribute content to wider platforms that reaches beyond the audience of broadcast TV. Recent BARB figures of 2009 indicated that most of the people in UK, recorded the first episode of fifth series of Lost (Guardian, 2009). The distribution of TV text to various alternative carriers has affected TV, its identity and TV as a cultural form. TV as culture is transformed by recurring changes in its components such as TV text, changing preferences of audience, advancement in technologies and network channels stance to produce relevant content in accordance with socio-cultural frameworks. For instance, a popular broadcasting network like BBC or CBS when started uploading programs on their websites, audience discussion rise from dinning room to virtual communities, effecting culture in a different way.

As discussed, Television is still evolving; its identity is unstable (not fixed). It’s difficult to define what television is and what it will be in near future and what changes it will pose to the culture. Urichho (2004) discusses the difficulties approaching TV as he cites Heath (1998; Urichho : 2004,165) who states “increasing inadequacy of existing terms and standards of analysis bounds TV with a specific bound of representation, a certain coherence of object and understanding TV in a complex social-political-individual meaning”. TV as flow has been transformed by everyday technologies, economy and by network channels posing specific bearing on culture.

To conclude, flow is an essential concept for the growth of television as a culture in a society. Although, many scholars has interpreted ‘flow’ in different ways, but the concept of ‘flow’ remains vital to the critical understanding of the medium.


1.3.2 The changing television

The convergence of broadcast model and broadband has defeated traditional appointment based television and has produced a new avatar of the medium. The series of transformation in the medium has changed television over the time, ‘changes’ in terms of distribution of TV content across different media platforms due to technological convergence and changes in TV content to gratify entertainment needs of varied niche social sets of audience. The broadcasting model in no terms can be stated as ‘single technological medium, thereby affecting social and cultural practices that have grown around the medium over the time (Askwith: 2003). Mc Luhans( 1978) living room experience refers to the culmination of social experiences among family members (audience) lasting an evening. When TV became a product of convergence culture, TV audience discovered new ways to engage with TV content via internet, mobile phones and I phones. Personal computers when added to techno mix convergence; TV audience got a platform to expand their social experiences across variety of channels and engaged themselves with TV content as never before. Loyal viewers used these platforms to contemplate about and discuss varied things about TV content such as characters, plots, locations etc resulting in a never ending collective intelligence (Jenkins: 2000) that engage users in different ways across different social platforms.

The distribution of TV text to different channels (mediums) and platforms has designed content as ‘malleable packages’ in accordance to varied media outlets. Jenkins (2000: 95) describes such a phenomenon as transmedia storytelling, as he explains TV content in the present era is more of a story telling experience involving viewers in different ways. He discusses about popular media franchises such as the matrix, Harry potter, Star Wars and states that such media content are entertainment for convergence age that integrates multiple texts to form a single narrative where each text lays its own individuality and originality. In other words, a transmedia content when unfolds to different media outlet, each text (medium) should be able to contribute solely to respective media franchise, for instance in Matrix a film offers a more immediate rapport with audience where as matrix game would involve players in much different way as experienced in film. Thus it reveals that each medium has got different characteristics and engage audience in different ways. Distribution of TV text across different channels gives rise to new experiences and new ways of engagement with the medium.

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Not only changes in modes of distribution have contributed much to the changed broadcast model of TV, but also its content has transformed over the years. Mapplebleck (1998) describes a general shift from general formats of TV shows such as current affairs, daily show to a more factually based light entertainment programs. This shift was a direct result of changes in culture -media and popular culture, and the space shared by media and social publics. Although, network channels produce TV text in accordance with the entertainment needs of the audience, but experiments on new ideas and concepts play a vital role in gratifying entertainment needs of existent audience and grabbing new audience.

The biggest implication of convergence has been the distribution of national identity content to global media markets thereby removing the boundaries of exclusivity and availing content on multiple channels has resulted in cross-cultural interaction ( Jenkins : 2000). Indian Idol much on the lines of American Idol (reality show on Sony TV India) has become a hybrid format in many countries, with a tint of socio-cultural frameworks practiced at each place. Such experiments with the broadcast model have lifted audience from the monotonous everyday routine soap operas to range of interesting formats that are completely new to them. This phenomena has been described as a shift towards first person media (Dovey: 2000) and a post documentary culture (Corner: 2000). With changes in content, there have been major changes in the production techniques to engage audience at different levels of pre production, production and post production. New production practices with TV literate fans have fostered changes in the way fiction series construct story world (Scones: 2008:67). Sometime various textual strategies are employed for a direct interaction between producers and audience to build rapport with audience.

Network channels apply strategies like distribution of content to various platforms, content management and changes in production techniques to engage audience in different ways at different levels, for instance, CBS has become the most viewable network by telecasting some formulaic crime and drama series like “survivors” and early days of “CSI” (Lotz: 2007:215). Jenkins (2000:25) adds “Survivor is a TV for internet age-designed to be discussed dissected, debated, predicted and critiqued”. Survivors (reality show on CBS) brings a new lively format where contestants competes in side the show and show lovers (audience/fandom) competes outside as ‘spoilers’ to leak the information inside out. The transformation in TV content has affected audience activities and engagement with the medium in numerous ways, moving to a ‘lean forward’ approach other than ‘sit back’ approach as practiced by passive audience (Urichho: 2004).

Fiske (1987:73) confronts the concept of TV audience as passive consumers and states; television audience might be incapable of influencing the content of TV programs, but the involvement with medium requires significant forms of audience engagement, such as individual viewer interpret TV text in accordance with socio-cultural frameworks to construct meanings to the text, social viewers (set of social group ex family, friends) that discuss TV text with friends and peers to find shared meanings and insights of cultural significance. Corner (1999) explains the pleasure of para-sociability, the enjoyment and excitement we derive from discussing TV content, Jenkins (2000) terms those discussion as ‘water cooler conversation’, a natural desire to discuss, express and exchange ideas.

However, varied content appears on living room screen and all must not be relevant to an individual or a set of social group. Content must do more than to appear on TV to distinguish itself for better cultural relevance. ( Lotz, 2007:35). She suggests “phenomenal TV” that lays on the foundation of selected themes and topics that appears on multiple or varied outlet. Programs that achieve special conversation and break the cluttered media are relevant; they gain attention by ‘word of mouth’ and resonates culture in many ways.

As discussed in this section TV has come long way from ‘traditional broadcast model’ and activities such as distribution, malleable content and changes in production techniques has changed the medium and has produced a new avatar. Transmedia storytelling has distributed content at different platforms with varying technology (specific medium with specific technology, ex matrix – film {different technology} book {different technology}) and national identity content to be transformed and adjusted in accordance with socio-cultural framework (American Idol in US & Indian Idol in India).

1.3.3 TV in post network era

With introduction of new digital technologies and convergence culture, identity of TV is in a state of flux; many refer it to as ‘post network era’. Post network era was a direct outcome of network era where sources were scarce and no alternatives ways were available to receive TV content other than the network channels. Technical innovations and globalization has mark the beginning of the post network era, reducing restricted access of content and multiplying text to various channels.

Many relate post network era as age of convergence culture (Jenkins: 2000). L.A. Times reports post network era is age of fast food TV (Times: 2005). Lotz (2007) refers Television in post network era as a medium organized around networks. Spigel (Spigel & Olsson: 2004:2) explains a more comprehensive phase of TV in the network era and states “if TV refers to the technologies, industrial information, government policies and practices of looking that were associated with the medium in its classical public service and three network age, it appears we are now entering – the phase that comes after TV.” She notes the broadcast model is in a process of transformation and distribution of visual text at multiple platforms has renovated the medium in new ways. The proliferation of TV content at different platforms has resulted in audience fragmentation (1) (Lotz : 2007: 15) creating niche groups of audiences interested in different varieties of content. When audience engages with diverse content at different platforms, they associate themselves with content and medium in varied ways. As Jenkins (2000:110) explains each medium has inherent set of characteristic that are culture specific and technology specific (physical characteristics). His idea of convergence culture is based on the fact that each medium is different from every other medium and every medium is capable of doing something better than the other, for instance Matrix, a trans media content gets distributed to different platforms (channels) to work as an individual narrative, a comic book (matrix) will create space and engage audience in a much different way as compared to movie (The matrix). Similarly when TV text lands on different platforms, it redefines the modes of engagement employed with different mediums.

TV in the post network era has been defined on many grounds: culture and technology.

Curtin (2008: 272-275) refers to the cultural history of the medium and argue broadcast model needs to be researched cross culturally, to know how TV has evolved in different cultural, economical, industrial and regulatory conditions that set the conditions for post network era. The sociality element of the broadcast model clubs with cultural and economic (technology) factors to define the new avatar of medium from place to place. TV as a medium is capable of cultivating sociability (Lull: 1990), it constructs and maintains interpersonal relationship between family and social units.

Urichhio (2008:163) describes broad changes in TV technology and explains how TV has come a long way from TV console to “smart TV system. Technical innovations ranging from recording programs on DVD to downloading videos with new modes of distribution have brought up a change in audience consumption habits. Networks content irrespective of what, when and where at a minimal cost has transformed the ‘engaging experience’. Spigel (2008:5) notes “changes in programming and sponsorship are met with similar changes in the entire culture of watching TV”. The new patterns of consuming TV text on different media outlets such as mobile phones, media players, social platforms (You Tube) exhibits a limitless expansion of television text almost at every place and every platform ( Lotz,2007:50). Social Networking sites such as You Tube, Face Book, and Twitter have become social forums to view and discuss about TV text. You Tube, when launched streamed about 35 millions video a day and drew the double size of audience (Los angles times.com:2006). Online videos are treasures, they are not only means to watch your favorite shows, but to watch whole bunch of stuff which you haven’t seen. (2) (Lotz, 2007:137).

TV in the post network era offers flexibility in what, when and where to view and has open up new gateways of involvement and engagement with the medium at new platforms. But many fear the death of the broadcast model as repercussion of new technologies and convergence culture. But as Jenkins (2000) states every medium is different from every other, old mediums converge with new technologies to involve audience in a new engaging manner. Definitely, the broadcast model hasn’t lost its charm yet, but the means and ways employed by viewers i.e. how and where has complicated the medium and its usage. I would prefer it calling a hybrid medium, whose offerings are unique and platforms to showcase those offerings are versatile. Post network era exhibits a two way relationship between network channels and audience. Network channels produce diverse content to gratify varied entertainment needs at different mediums and viewers consume varied text at different platforms and make sense within the context of social, economic and cultural condition.

TV in post network era has set conditions for multiplicity of visual text at different platforms. Its content has proliferated to networking sites such as Face book, Orkut, You Tube etc offering a rare combination of viewing and discussing content with friends and peers. TV has entered a social networking era where people come together discuss topics related to TV text that interest them.


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