Is Broadcast Television Still Relevant?

In the past few weeks, we have been exploring media spaces, particularly that surrounding television. Throughout my previous blog, I conducted primary research into how television watching and TV’s themselves have changed over time. As such, I briefly ‘interviewed’ my Mum and Nan about their childhood memories of television and their favourite shows growing up. Through the use of this qualitative research, I gained further insight into their personal experiences of television which differed greatly from that of my own.

When my Mum and Nan were growing up, watching television was designated family time. The television took prime position in the lounge room and everyone would gather around to watch.

Happy 1950’s family watching TV. Source

This is completely different to how I engage with the TV now. Within my household, we have a television or electronic device for which we watch television in almost every room of the house. I rarely watch my favourite TV shows on an actual television anymore. Instead, I use the television to provide background noise, whilst watching TV shows on my laptop.

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The majority of families nowadays… look familiar? Source

This new age trend in how we now engage with physical televisions should be the focus of analysis for contemporary media use… is broadcast television still relevant, are people still watching the TV?

The traditional way to monitor television viewing habits has been through the use of a rating system. In many countries, companies use devices that track viewing habits and use the sample data to estimate the average viewing habits of people of a certain age, gender and demographic. If you are interested in how this process works, check out Tricia Ellis-Christensen’s articleIt gave me a better understanding of how the process actually works. These numbers or ‘ratings’, give us an idea of how many people tune into various shows but doesn’t necessarily give us a clear picture of how that media is engaged with throughout the home.

Media audience research is content focused and highly based on quantitative research. If you are interested in this type of information, check out the Q1 2015 Edition of The Australian Multi-Screen Report.

As such, this form of data doesn’t explain the number of televisions left on purely to provide background noise. Nor does it show the different levels of engagement with televisions in the bedroom and lounge room. What about the people who use their laptop, tablet or phone, or are on social media whilst watching television? How are these people actively engaging with the media space?

Commercial research has such a strong preference for percentages, charts and graphs, which don’t have the same respect for the individual stories of the media spaces. Will traditional televisions soon become nothing other than big boxes of background noise? Or will they forever remain a dominant feature in the lounge room? Research needs to develop a better appreciation of individual’s media spaces to gauge a better understanding of the media space. 


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