I’ve been thinking a lot about what exactly is television? It seems slightly odd to continue to define television by the very limiting factor it’s being liberated from: broadcast and cable gatekeepers.
We could define Television as something that we watch on the screen in the corner, and that’s probably as reasonable a definition as any, but a little shallow. The announcements of devices like tv, along with similar devices from Sling Media, Netgear and announced features for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, mean that, by this definition, every contribution to YouTube is Television? I don’t think so.
Getting Internet-delivered Television back on the familiar screen is certainly an important step toward Television 3.0 but the addition of user generated content reopens the question of what is Television. After thinking about it I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two factors that define Television other than by the distribution channel.
To my mind, Television is the business of creating entertainment or educational content on a regular schedule with attention to the craft skills of production.
Television is a business. Consumer generated media is a hobby. (A worthy, worthwhile hobby by all means.) People work in Television production because they like the work but it is just that: their work. Companies produce shows in the hope of making more income than they spent making the program. Networks and Cable channels pay producers for programs hoping to get more revenue from advertising than the program cost them. And so on.
The other part of the equation: the careful application of craft skills, is harder to pin down. Call it professionalism or craft skills, but there’s a certain something about well crafted Television (across a range of budgets for sure) that sets it apart from “consumer generated content”. Not to be complacent, there’s an increasing amount of that consumer generated content that’s demonstrating professional craft skills.