For those of us who grew up in the western countries the television is almost taken for granted; it has always been there in the corner of the front room, entertaining us with bright colours and sounds, or satisfying our need to learn something new. The television, invented by an assortment of individuals in the late 19th and early 20th century, but often attributed to John Locke Baird, has revolutionised the world.
For the first time moving images could be adequately projected from around the world into the homes of ordinary people, bringing a new level of access to information and entertainment previously only dreamed of. The social and political changes brought about by this innovation were so profound that it was decided to appreciate the medium formally, on a global scale.
The first World Television Forum was staged by the United Nations in the mid ’90s, and it was out of this event that World Television Day was born. The forum brought together leading figures from the media industry to analyze the growing impact that TV had on decision-making and public opinion when it comes to issues of peace and security around the planet.
History of World Television Day
In December 1996 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the 21st of November World Television Day, the same year the first World Television Forum was held. According to the United Nations, this decision was taken in order to give recognition to the increasing impact television has had on decision-making by bringing various conflicts and threats to peace and security to the world’s attention, as well as its coverage of other major issues, including economic and social.
Prior to this people received information via radio broadcasting, if a household was equipped with a transistor radio, and the newspapers. Early television broadcasts followed the same format as radio, with a man reading a simple bulletin on a black and white screen. The technology however soon evolved to include images of events and interviews with people. The monochrome style was abandoned when color technology was developed in the mid to late sixties, and TV technology continues to advance with evermore sophisticated optics and digital enhancements.
However, World Television Day is not meant to be so much a celebration of the electronic tool itself, but rather of the philosophy which it represents–a philosophy of openness and transparency of world issues. Television has long been thought to represent communication and globalization in the contemporary world, but not all of the government representatives present saw matters quite that way.
The delegation from Germany said, “Television is only one means of information and an information medium to which a considerable majority of the world population has no access… That vast majority could easily look at World Television Day as a rich man’s day. They do not have access to television. There is more important information in the media and here I would mention radio in particular.”
Despite this understandable objection the television has still been an instrumental innovation for humanity, in the same category as the printing press, radio communication, and the internet. World Television Day is a chance for us to appreciate not only the extraordinary technological ingenuity of the scientist and engineers who made seemingly impossible things happen, but also to understand the social and cultural implications that such a unifying medium has had on our global communities.
The internet has connected us in ways we didn’t expect and perhaps could not have imagined, but on World Television Day we remember that television was there first, and paved the way for what was to come.
How to celebrate World Television Day
The most obvious way to celebrate World Television Day is by watching television. But what? Surely not vulgar reality shows offering little to no value of any kind to their audience? World Television Day is a time to rewatch and relive some of the greatest moments of television that helped bring the reality of a rapidly technologically advancing world into people’s homes, forever changing their lives and how they perceived the world.
1954 marked the launch of Disney’s “Wonderful World of Color”, a family-friendly variety program that mixed iconic cartoons, drama and documentary programming. The very first televised presidential debate between Republican Vice President Richard Nixon and his challenger, relatively unknown Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960 changed the presidential elections forever.
For the first time ever, American voters actually saw the candidates present their ideas, which worked greatly in favor of the young and handsome Kennedy, who went on to win the election. And few moments, if any, in television history could ever surpass Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Ed “Buzz” Aldrin’s moon landing in 1969, which many people consider to be a pivotal moment in their lives until this very day–after that, nothing was going to be impossible again.
World Television Day was established as a way of bringing focus back to these issues on an annual basis. In years gone by, major TV stations have come together on the day to broadcast tributes to the importance of television in people’s lives. The obvious way for anyone to celebrate is to turn on their TV and watch.
But you don’t have to rely on broadcasting networks to bring you ideas of what to watch on World Television Day. These days our television sets are also internet compatible, allowing us to access a range of content suitable to our specific interests, whether they be educational or for entertainment value. It’s easy to use your television set to look up an historical documentary giving you a window into the past, or choose a cultural figure who was influential in her time and changed the world in some way. In doing so you will be in-keeping with the true purpose of television media, to educate and inspire.
But if you would rather be entertained, why not select a classic film from the Hollywood archives and imagine you are watching it for the first time, as a member of the original audience. Feeling adventurous? Go all out and dress up in period costumes as well, turn World Television Day into an Annual event that you and your friends can enjoy planning months in advance.
Those that want to become more involved and have ideas about how to honor the day are welcomed to send their thoughts to the official website.