Television (TV) is a widely used telecommunication medium for sending (broadcasting) and receiving moving images, either monochromatic ("black and white") or color, usually accompanied by sound. "Television" may also refer specifically to a television set, television programming or television transmission. The word is derived from mixed Latin and Greek roots, meaning "far sight": Greek tele (τῆλε), far, and Latin visio, sight (from video, vis- to see, or to view in the first person).
Commercially available since the late 1930s, the television set has become a common communications receiver in homes, businesses and institutions, particularly as a source of entertainment and news. Since the 1970s, recordings on video cassettes, and later, digital media such as DVDs, have resulted in the television frequently being used for viewing recorded as well as broadcast material.
A standard television set comprises multiple internal electronic circuits, including those for tuning and decoding broadcast signals. A display device which lacks these internal circuits is therefore properly called a monitor, rather than a television. A television set may be designed to handle other than traditional broadcast or recorded signals and formats, such as closed-circuit television (CCTV), digital television (DTV) and high-definition television (HDTV).
In its early stages of development, television included only those devices employing a combination of optical, mechanical and electronic technologies to capture, transmit and display a visual image. By the late 1920s, however, those employing only optical and electronic technologies were being explored. All modern television systems rely on the latter, however the knowledge gained from the work on mechanical-dependent systems was crucial in the development of fully electronic television.
In 1884 Paul Gottlieb Nipkow, a 20-year old university student in Germany patented the first electromechanical television system which employed a scanning disk, a spinning disk with a series of holes spiraling toward the center, for "rasterization", the process of converting a visual image into a stream of electrical pulses. The holes were spaced at equal angular intervals such that in a single rotation the disk would allow light to pass through each hole and onto a light-sensitive selenium sensor which produced the electrical pulses. As an image was focused on the rotating disk, each hole captured a horizontal "slice" of the whole image.
Nipkow's design would not be practical until advances in amplifier tube technology became available in 1907. Even then the device was only useful for transmitting still halftone images - those represented by equally spaced dots of varying size - over telegraph or telephone lines. Later designs would use a rotating mirror-drum scanner to capture the image and a cathode ray tube (CRT) as a display device, but moving images were still not possible, due to the poor sensitivity of the selenium sensors.
Scottish inventor John Logie Baird demonstrated the transmission of moving silhouette images in London in 1925, and of moving, monochromatic images in 1926. Baird's scanning disk produced an image of 30 lines resolution, barely enough to discern a human face, from a double spiral of lenses.
Also in 1927, Herbert E. Ives of Bell Labs transmitted moving images from a 50-aperture disk producing 16 frames per minute over a cable from Washington, DC to New York City, and via radio from Whippany, New Jersey. Ives used viewing screens as large as 24 by 30 inches (60 by 75 centimeter). His subjects included Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover.
In 1928, Philo Farnsworth made the world's first working television system with electronic scanning of both the pickup and display devices, which he first demonstrated to news media on 1928-09-01, televising a motion picture film.
First run programming is increasing on subscription services outside the U.S., but few domestically produced programs are syndicated on domestic FTA elsewhere. This practice is increasing however, generally on digital-only FTA channels, or with subscriber-only first run material appearing on FTA.
Unlike the U.S., repeat FTA screenings of a FTA network program almost only occur on that network. Also, Affiliates rarely buy or produce non-network programming that is not centred around local events.
Around the globe, broadcast television is financed by either government, advertising, licensing (a form of tax), subscription or any combination of these. To protect revenues, subscription TV channels are usually encrypted to ensure that only subscription payers receive the decryption codes to see the signal. Non-encrypted channels are known as Free to Air or FTA.
Advertising attempts to influence people's behaviour and beliefs and television is therefore a powerful and attractive medium for advertisers to use. TV stations sell air time to advertisers in order to fund their programming.
Since inception in the U.S. in 1940, TV commercials have become one of the most effective, persuasive, and popular method of selling products of many sorts, especially consumer goods. U.S. advertising rates are determined primarily by Nielsen Ratings. The time of the day and popularity of the channel determine how much a television commercial can cost. For example, the highly popular American Idol can cost approximately $750,000 for a thirty second block of commercial time; while the same amount of time for the World Cup and the Super Bowl can cost several million dollars.
In recent years, the paid program or infomercial has become common, usually in lengths of 30 minutes or one hour. Some drug companies and other businesses have even created "news" items for broadcast, known in the industry as video news releases, paying program directors to use them.
Some TV programs also weave advertisements into their shows, a practice begun in film and known as product placement. For example, a character could be drinking a certain kind of soda, going to a particular chain restaurant, or driving a certain make of car. (This is sometimes very subtle, where shows have vehicles provided by manufacturers for low cost, rather than wrangling them.) Sometimes a specific brand or trade mark, or music from a certain artist or group, is used. (This excludes guest appearances by artists, who perform on the show.)
The TV regulator oversees TV advertising in the United Kingdom. Its restrictions have applied since the early days of commercially funded TV. Despite this, an early TV mogul, Lew Grade, likened the broadcasting licence as a being a "licence to print money". Restrictions mean that the big three national commercial TV channels, ITV, Channel 4, and Five can show an average of only seven minutes of advertising per hour (eight minutes in the peak period). Other broadcasters must average no more than nine minutes (twelve in the peak). This means that many imported TV shows from the US have un-natural breaks where the UK company has edited out the breaks intended for US advertising. Advertisements must not be inserted in the course of any broadcast of a news or current affairs program of less than half an hour scheduled duration, or in a documentary of less than half an hour scheduled duration, or in a program for children of less than half an hour scheduled duration. Nor may advertisements be carried in a program designed and broadcast for reception in schools or in any religious service or other devotional program, or during a formal Royal ceremony or occasion. There also must be clear demarcations in time between the programs and the advertisements.
The BBC, being strictly non-commercial is not allowed to show advertisements on television in the UK, although it has many advertising-funded channels abroad. The majority of its budget comes from TV licencing (see below) and the sale of content to other broadcasters.
Television services in some countries may be funded by a television licence, a form of taxation which means advertising plays a lesser role or no role at all. For example, some channels may carry no advertising at all and some very little.
The BBC carries no advertising on its UK channels and is funded by an annual licence paid by all households owning a television. This licence fee is set by government, but the BBC is not answerable to or controlled by government and is therefore genuinely independent.
The two main BBC TV channels are watched by almost 90 percent of the population each week and overall have 27 per cent share of total viewing. This in spite of the fact that 85% of homes are multichannel, with 42% of these having access to 200 free to air channels via satellite and another 43% having access to 30 or more channels via Freeview. The licence that funds the seven advertising-free BBC TV channels costs less than £136 a year (about US$270) irrespective of the number of TV sets owned. When the same sporting event has been presented on both BBC and commercial channels, the BBC always attracts the lion's share of the audience, indicating viewers prefer to watch TV uninterrupted by advertising.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) carries no advertising (except for the ABC shop) as it is banned under law ABC Act 1983 The ABC receives its funding from the Australian Government every three years. In the 2006/07 Federal Budget the ABC received Au$822.67 Million this covers most of the ABC funding commitments and as with the BBC also funds radio channels, transmitters and the ABC web sites. The ABC also receives funds from its many ABC Shops in Australia.
Some TV channels are partly funded from subscriptions and therefore the signals are encrypted during broadcast to ensure that only paying subscribers have access to the decryption codes. Most subscription services are also funded by advertising.
Popular entertainment genres include action-oriented shows such as police, crime, detective dramas, horror or thriller shows. As well, there are also other variants of the drama genre, such as medical dramas and daytime soap operas. Science fiction shows can fall into either the drama or action category, depending on whether they emphasize philosophical questions or high adventure. Comedy is a popular genre which includes situation comedy (sitcom) and animated shows for the adult demographic such as South Park.
The least expensive forms of entertainment programming are game shows, talk shows, variety shows, and reality TV. Game shows show contestants answering questions and solving puzzles to win prizes. Talk shows feature interviews with film, television and music celebrities and public figures. Variety shows feature a range of musical performers and other entertainers such as comedians and magicians introduced by a host or Master of Ceremonies. There is some crossover between some talk shows and variety shows, because leading talk shows often feature performances by bands, singers, comedians, and other performers in between the interview segments. Reality TV shows "regular" people (i.e., not actors) who are facing unusual challenges or experiences, ranging from arrest by police officers (COPS) to weight loss (The Biggest Loser). A variant version of reality shows depicts celebrities doing mundane activities such as going about their everyday life (The Osbournes) or doing manual labour (Simple Life).
Television has had such an impact in today's life, that it has been the main motif for numerous collectors' coins and medals. One of the most recent ones is the Austrian 50 years of Television commemorative coin minted in March 9, 2005. The obverse of the coin shows a "test pattern", while the reverse shows several milestones in the history of television.