Introduction is taken from uncorrected proofs. Changes may be
made prior to publication.)
to the Second Edition
edition of the Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia
of Television contains almost 200 new entries. Additionally,
approximately 500 entries from the first edition have been revised
and updated to account for developments since 1997, including
changes in cast or other personnel, industrial developments, changes
in executive ranks, series endings, or, in some cases, with the
addition of new readings or other ancillary materials.
As it was
for the first edition, the selection of additional entries has
been a difficult process. Some new entries are included because
they should or could have been placed in the first edition. That
is, their absence from that edition was an oversight. In most
cases, however, they are here because they add depth and breadth
to the overall attempt to represent television in the fullest
possible manner. Others, however, do reflect new developments
in the television industries, such as new programs, new companies,
merged conglomerates, and individuals who have risen to prominence.
videocassette recorders, cable systems, and computers continue
to alter the profiles and processes related to the medium of television.
By the end of the century these technologies had all but obviated
any necessity for the locally familiar transmitting tower, the
antenna, and even conventional forms of tuners and receivers.
Regularized program schedules had given way in most cases to an
array of choices, even in regions where official agencies still
attempted to control access to televised content. Moreover, the
shifts in technology, with consequent alterations in economic
underpinnings, and the power alignments accompanying them, showed
up new failures-shortcomings, really-in policies and legal arrangements
designed to monitor and rationalize the systems of broadcasting
commonly thought of as "television."
aspects retain familiar outlines. The GE/NBC purchase of Vivendi
Universal in late 2003 was a clear example of old strategies of
increased vertical and horizontal integration in the media industries.
Whatever new technologies are applied in production or used in
transmission and reception, it was in the interest of the network
to own a major production facility, especially one that produced
one of its "bread and butter" program franchises, the
Law and Order "brand" of television fictions.
Moreover, that brand may be popular precisely because it maintains
"older" styles of narrative, marked by contained episodes
in which familiar characters deal with issues of the day within
a crime and punishment format.
In the case
of both the more heavily revised and the many new entries, then,
the variable, mutable, strategically positioned definitions of
"television" mentioned in the Introduction to the first
edition, including the most traditional as well as the more innovative,
experimental, or postmodern, come into play. One fundamental question
can be framed in terms of degrees of change: has "television"
truly changed in less than a decade, or has it merely shifted
shape? And in either case, has the type and degree of control
by corporate and state interest or the type and degree of use
by "viewers" and "audiences" been significantly
altered? I have no intention of attempting a firm answer to those
questions. Rather, I call attention to a few examples that could
be fruitfully examined in such an attempt.
In the Introduction
to the first edition, I noted the increasing use of personal video
recorders, digitally based devices for recording television programs
from broadcast or cable transmission. This topic is examined much
more fully in a specific entry in this edition ("Digital
Video Recorder"), where William Boddy outlines the development
of the devices and explores some of the implications of their
diffusion and uses. Interestingly, however, the same devices are
mentioned in numerous other entries on topics such as "Advertising,"
"Time Shifting," "Programming," and "Zapping,"
among others. From discussions of dire predictions to comments
about ease of use, the significance of the device is demonstrated
in large and small shifts in our understanding of "television."
Is "television" in the U.S. the same thing if commercials,
so long a topic of anger, delight, scorn, and profit, are easily
avoided? Will the entire financial structure of the industries
falter? Will producers be influenced more directly by advertising
agencies desirous of placing their products inside fictional narratives?
Such questions indicate that the personal video recorder is perhaps
more significant than its predecessor, the video cassette recorder,
which seems now so basic, so useful primarily for recording programs
and skipping a few commercials (if only it could be more easily
programmed by someone in the house).
developments, programming decisions have altered the material
that might be available for such recordings. Despite the claims
of HBO, for example, that "it's not TV," original programming
for cable television has adopted and adapted narrative strategies
long familiar to viewers. In terms of content, however, cable
television offerings have also pushed boundaries set by cultural
restrictions and social expectations, opening television to subject
matters and treatments long restricted in the era dominated by
network broadcasting. Moreover, in response to the attraction
of these newer programs, more conventional television venues have
relaxed these restrictions in their own programming.
these variations in content are made possible by the continuing
segmentation of audiences. As more distribution outlets are developed
with the capacity afforded by digitalization, as technologies
make it easier to record for private viewing, and as creative
communities take advantage of new freedom to experiment and challenge,
the notion of the "mass audience" recedes in the design
and dissemination of televisual material. While it is the case
that the largest number of viewers can still be reached within
the conventional network structure familiar since the days of
radio, television programs remain available on schedules with
far smaller numbers of regular viewers. As a result of some of
these factors, corporate strategies also shift. New entries in
this edition note the presence of new television networks such
as The WB. The expanded holdings of conglomerates such as Viacom
and Disney are discussed here as is the trend capped, for the
time being, by the aforementioned GE/NBC purchase of Vivendi Universal
studios, cable channels, and ancillary services.
are best understood, I believe, as evidence of incremental change,
rather than completely new developments, and many were in some
degree of progress at the time of publication of the first edition
of the Encyclopedia of Television. They indicate the complexity
of social attitudes and cultural patterns, and even more significantly
the strength and flexibility of the powerful forces that exercise
some forms of control over the multiple contexts in which "television"
is made and experienced. Radical shifts, whether in the realm
of policy, economics, creativity, or technology, are hard to come
In some ways,
then, the new entries and revisions published here represent a
best effort at "keeping up" with the topics that are
very likely already in a process of transformation. More than
that, however, they also represent an ongoing attempt to understand
these processes. The selection of entries, then, continues to
represent a useful map of the surface of television rather than
a complete analysis of the entire phenomenon. The Encyclopedia
of Television does not pretend to final answers for these
questions. It offers no definition of its own for "television."
Instead, it offers a multitude of beginning points from which
to trace the intersections, conflicts, struggles, and convergences
that can be applied, and used as partial explanations for particular
events, policies, developments-even for the existence of particular
In the second
edition of the Encyclopedia of Television as in the first,
connections are pervasive. Multiple explanations are essential.
Comparisons are to be expected. Contradictions are inevitable.
With a thorough analytical Index, and a network of Cross-References
in the form of See-Alsos following most entries, an apparatus
enabling the user to explore these connections is built into the
structure of the work. The presence of 750 Photographs
accompanying entries (486 of which are entirely new to the second
edition) further enhances usage of the encyclopedia. In every
case the connections, cross-references, explanations, comparisons,
and contradictions should be sought out and used to understand
any particular item presented here. These items are starting points
on that surface map of television. Radiating from any single entry,
crossing many others, are lines of inquiry. But they are also
lines of influence. Providing those connections is the aim of
this work. Pursuing them should be the delight of the user.
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