What Is the Function of Television?

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While the function of television is frequently debated among cultural and media critics, some of the most commonly recognized functions of television are to educate, inform and entertain. These three functions are hardly separate from one another, and many television programs perform some combination of the three. A commonly held but more pessimistic view is that television’s primary function is to make money.

Educational television programming can focus on art, history, literature, politics, science, economics and just about any other branch of human knowledge in existence. Some programs, such as Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” help make complex or esoteric knowledge more understandable for viewers. Children’s programming, such as “Sesame Street,” also helps educate children on fundamental knowledge, such as the alphabet and basic colors. Closely linked to education is television’s function of informing viewers. News and current affairs programs help viewers stay up to date on the world around them, creating a more informed populace that is aware of politics and current events. However, as the medium has developed, television’s primary function has increasingly shifted away from education and information in favor of entertainment. Many of the most popular programs serve no purpose other than to entertain, with liberal doses of commercials thrown in to advertise products. However, entertainment television can still serve to educate and inform, helping viewers consider current issues through the context of humor or drama.