Digital TV and Its Consequences: A Changing Media Industry Report

Literature review

The main idea that is being promoted throughout the article by Gripsrud, is that the very paradigm of TV-broadcasting, in the traditional sense of this word, is rather inconsistent with the discursive implications of the process of digital television replacing the analog one.

As the author noted, “The present technological shift from analog to digital forms of production, storage, and distribution of signals raises important questions concerning the very fundamentals of broadcasting as a social institution” (2004, p. 210).

According to Gripsrud, this is because, whereas, the concept of an analog broadcasting presupposes the centralized essence of the informational content, distributed among viewers, the rise of digital TV cannot be discussed outside of how it enables people to ‘decentralize’ information, to which they are being exposed, while watching a particular TV channel.

In its turn, this presupposes the government’s undermined capacity to exercise control over the society’s functioning and creates objective preconditions for the process of citizens growing increasingly ‘atomized’ (in the perceptional and cognitive senses of this word), to attain an additional momentum.

The author clearly considers the earlier mentioned phenomena socially counterproductive, because it is being potentially capable of undermining the integrity of the informational links that bond the society’s members together – hence, resulting in lessening the extent of the society’s overall stability.

In his article, Gripsrud also points out to the fact that it is utterly inappropriate to assume that the newly emerged conveniences to TV audiences, brought about by the introduction of the digital TV standard, will necessarily prove beneficial for viewers. As the author noted, “Digital TV may offer greater possibilities… but it is not at all certain that these will be particularly successful” (2004, p. 217).

This is because the physiologically predetermined specifics of how people perceive the surrounding reality and their place in it effectively prevent them from being able to take full advantage of new viewing-opportunities, made possible by the introduction of the digital TV standard.

For example, the author mentions the fact that the convenience of being able to watch TV programs on demand, offered by digital television, continues to be regarded by many viewers as something that they can well live without.

This is because, it is specifically the fact that, while remaining affiliated with a particular TV channel (which offers programs on a time-fixed basis) that the significant share of viewers are able to plan their daily schedules.

Gripsrud concludes his article by suggesting that, even though the medium of digital television does in fact render a number of television-related conventions outdated, it is much too early to expect that the very concept of analog broadcasting will cease to remain discursively validated in the future.

Many ideas that are being reflected upon in Bosland’s article do resonate with how the earlier mentioned author went about tackling the concerned subject matter.

For example, according to Bosland, the ongoing technological progress in the affiliated domains of Australian television naturally causes the informational medium in question to undergo a certain transformation, in order to preserve the integrity of its ‘structural factors’ – technology, ideology, economics and politics.

This is because it is only the structurally sustainable television networks that, according to the author, may function in such a manner so that the relations between the government, on the one hand, and TV broadcasting companies, on the other, continue to be observant of the quid pro quo principle.

After all, namely the implementation of this specific principle, within the context of designing media-policies in Australia and in other Western countries, which makes possible the functioning of the discussed informational medium, as we know it, “Under this principle, broadcasters are protected against new market entry (and hence competition) in exchange for meeting certain public interest obligations” (2007, p. 321).

The line of argumentation, deployed by Bosland in his article, has led him to assume that the reason why recently passed media-related legislations in Australia (such as the Broadcasting Services Act) appear to fall behind the pace of progress in the domain of digital TV, is that they meant to correlate with the interests of all the involved stakeholders.

In other words, Bosland promotes the idea that it is rather inappropriate to think of the recent technological breakthroughs in the field, as such that alone define the subtleties of the concerned socio-cultural discourse. The author concludes his article by pointing out to the fact that, being the subject of the dialectical laws of history; digital television will be affecting the surrounding social reality to an ever-increased extent.

Critical reflection

One of the main argumentative implications, which derive out of the earlier reviewed articles, is that the rise of digital television will inevitably result in people growing increasingly disfranchised from the actual televised content that they consume.

This simply could not be otherwise, because the qualitatively new paradigm of distributing information among people, brought about by the rise of digital television, provides them with the liberty to lead socially withdrawn lifestyles.

After all, the technical particulars of how digital TV-content in being delivered imply that the governmental policy-makers can no longer rely on television, as one of the foremost instruments of endowing citizens with the sense of a social/cultural solidarity.

In other words, there is indeed a good rationale to expect the rise of digital television to result in weakening the government’s control over people’s lives. Even though that such an eventual development is going to be welcomed by many freedom-loving individuals, there are certain doubts about whether the process of citizens becoming cognitively and perceptional ‘atomized’ will prove beneficial, in the end.

This is because human societies are in essence thermodynamic systems, the sustainability of which may not only be measured in regards to the concerned components’ actual quality, but also in regards to the qualitative characteristics of how systemic components interrelate with each other.

However, as we are well aware of, the integrity of the links that bound the system’s integral elements together negatively relates to the extent of these elements’ functional autonomy. In plain words – the lesser is the government’s influence on citizens’ lives, the higher are the chances for the society to collapse, due to the internal forces of entropy (Wicken1986).

Because the geographical expansion of digital television presupposes the government’s reduced ability to ‘guide’ people, within the context of how they address life-challenges, it will only be logical to expect that, as time goes on, people’s continual exposure to the digitized TV content will cause them to grow increasingly alienated, in the social sense of this word.

Another concern, related to the rise of digital television, has to do with the fact that the newly emerged digital TV-viewing opportunities are inconsistent with purely physiological aspects of how people ‘digest’ information in their minds. After all, as psychologists know, one can focus its metal attention on only one perceptually experienced object or phenomena at the time.

This is exactly the reason why people cannot be simultaneously addressing more than one mentally exhausting task. Moreover, in order for an individual to be able to ‘tune’ into addressing a particular mental task, he or she will need to spend some time familiarizing itself with the task’s possible implications.

Because the activity of watching TV can be well defined in terms of a mental task that presupposes the concerned individual’s ability to ‘digest’ informational inputs, the paradigm of ‘digital watching’ appears to be synonymous to the notion of a pointless idling.

This because, while enjoying the liberty to choose from often as many as five hundred digital channels, people are being denied the opportunity to make an actual choice – whatever ironic it may sound (Belk 2013).

Apparently, the very multitude of the available digitized channels effectively prevents viewers from being able to focus their mental attention on either of them for long enough, so that the process of ‘informational digestion’ could initiate.

In its turn, this explains the phenomena of people ‘surfing’ TV channels for seemingly no apparent purpose, whatsoever. It appears that the very fact that there are hundreds and hundreds of digitally delivered channels, available for subscription at affordable prices, establishes certain prerequisites for individuals in Western countries (where digital TV proliferates) to become intellectually marginalized.

The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated in regards to another phenomenon, brought about by the television’s continual digitalization – the fact that there is a widening gap between two distinctive groups of viewers, which can be generalized as ‘analytics’, on the one hand, and ‘thrill-seekers’, on the other.

As the relevant statistical studies indicate, viewers that belong to the first of these groups spend a good half of their time in front of the TV, while watching educational programs on ‘History’ and ‘Discovery’ channels.

The representatives of the second group tend to think of the activity of watching TV in terms of an entertainment alone – hence, their longing to be exposed to the emotionally charged but intellectually shallow TV programs, such as ‘ET’ or ‘Cops’, for example (Robinson & Martin 2009).

Moreover, as time goes by, individuals that could be considered ‘universal viewers’ (those who tend to deliberately balance their viewing preferences) represent the most rapidly diminishing TV audience.

Given the fact that, just as it happened to be the case with the audience of ‘universal viewers’, the audience of ‘analytics’ continues to shrink in size, we can well predict that in the near future, the main purpose of the digital television’s continual functioning will be concerned with appeasing the marginalized crowds of ‘thrill-seekers’.

Thus, it appears that the socio-cultural implications of the rise of digital television cannot be discussed as ‘things in themselves’. In fact, the television’s ongoing digitization can be well thought of as being indicative of the fact that many revolutionary breakthroughs in the field of IT, which had taken place recently, were reflective of the affiliated individuals’ existential degeneracy.

Just as it used to be the case in the declining Roman Empire, where technology was being increasingly utilized to entertain decadent citizens, the technology of transmitting TV signals in the digital form now serves the purpose of encouraging citizens to adopt an utterly passive stance in life, while remaining solely focused on getting as much entertainment, as possible (Newman & Bartels 2011).

This helps the representatives of ruling elites to ensure their continual dominance in the West. The price for this, however, is undermining the stability of Western societies from within, which may eventually result in Western civilization being deprived of the remains of its former existential vitality.

It is needless to mention, of course, that the above-statement is rather speculative. Nevertheless, there are indeed many good reasons to believe that, contrary to what it is being commonly assumed, the ongoing digitalization of television may be well indicative that, while continuing to remain on the edge of the technological progress, Westerners have lost what it takes to remain in full control of the process. This explains the sensation of being overwhelmed with technology, on their part.

Research scope

In light of what has been said earlier, we can define what may account for the discursively legitimate research directions, in regards to the television’s continual digitization. These directions can be outlined as follows:

Researching how people’s exposure to the decentralized TV broadcasting affects their psychological well-being

As of today, there is enough evidence as to the fact that, while being in the position to alter the televised content, many viewers do not take full advantage of this particular opportunity.

This phenomenon, however, is not the direct consequence of them remaining technologically arrogant, but rather the sublimation of the concerned individuals’ anxiety to have a third party playing an active role in helping them to organize their lives. Therefore, conducting an additional inquiry in this subject matter should prove beneficial for both: broadcasters and consumers.

Defining how the particulars of people’s ethno-cultural affiliation affect their attitude towards digital television

As it was mentioned earlier, the introduction of the digital TV format resulted in accentuating deep-seated differences in how different categories of viewers go about forming their watching habits/tastes. It would be interesting to find out whether the specifics of people’s ethno-cultural positioning in life do contribute, in this respect.

Making an inquiry into what can be considered the digital television’s perceived and factual benefits for viewers

Just as it happened to be the case with the quality of just about any product or service, the quality of informational content, delivered through the medium of digital television, remains the subject of various interpretations. Therefore, it would make a logical sense to conduct a study on what can be considered the scope of possible indications that reflect the measure of these interpretations’ objectivity.

Identifying the major socio-economic and psychological factors that affect people’s decision-making, within the context of how they tackle service-subscription bargains, offered by digital TV providers

Once these factors are being identified, it will be so much easier for digital TV providers to choose in favor of the circumstantially sound strategy for targeting potential audiences.

The latter will also benefit, as providers would be much more likely to adjust their service-offers with what happened to be perceptual/cognitive predispositions, on the part of every individual consumer – hence, an additional rationale for considering this research.

References

Belk, R 2013, ‘Extended self in a digital world’, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 40. no. 3, pp. 477-500.

Bosland, J 2007, ‘An analogue “house of cards” in the Digital Era: the shifting structures of television broadcasting policy in Australia’, in A Kenyon (ed), TV futures: digital television policy in Australia, Melbourne University Press, Carlton and Victoria, pp. 315-342.

Gripsrud, J 2004, ‘Broadcast television: the chances of its survival in a Digital Age’, in L Spigel & J Olsson (eds), Television after TV: essays on a medium in transition, Duke University Press, Durham and London, pp. 210-223.

Newman, B & Bartels, B 2011, ‘Politics at the checkout line: explaining political consumerism in the United States’, Political Research Quarterly, vol. 64. no. 4, pp. 803-817.

Robinson, J & Martin, S 2009, ‘The end of television? its impact on the world n(so far)’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 625, pp. 74-86.

Wicken, J 1986, ‘Entropy and evolution: ground rules for discourse’, Systematic Zoology, vol. 35. no. 1, pp. 22-36.

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