Television is an important aspect of Australians’ daily lives: 99.7% of Australian households have a television, and Australians watch 93 hours of television each month on average.

Is this still television as people shift online to watch television programmes through catch-up services like ABC iview, Ten Play, and SBS On Demand? Is television characterised by the device the audience watches it or by the programming itself, regardless of platform?

The Australian government’s recent statement that community television will be moved online raises problems regarding how television is defined on political, institutional, and social levels. Is Ustream, a live online streaming service, considered television?

What distinguishes television from other forms of media?

“To see at a distance” is the most basic definition of “television.” However, because it might be used to define various media and technology, this definition is wide and problematic.

Another problem with defining television is that it frequently refers to other elements such as the set, programme, and institution. This adds to the difficulties of a problem that appears to be current but is past.

Television in its infancy

Television was not the first phrase used to describe technology when it was originally developed, and Telephonoscope and telephone were two other terminologies used.

The term “television” was first used in technology in 1900 at the International Electricity Congress. Thirty years later, there was still debate and discussion as test broadcasts began in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Television in the present day

  • A multi-purpose approach is used in today’s definition of television. This is reflected in the Oxford Dictionary’s three methods of describing television:
  • a method for displaying visual pictures transmitted (usually with sound) through radio signals on a screen
  • a screen-equipped device for receiving these signals

Signals on television in general

The Dictionary of Media Studies (2006), which contains four definitions for television, exemplifies this multi-purpose approach.

“An electronic device for receiving and reproducing the images and sound of a combined audio and video stream,” according to the first definition. “A system for capturing images and sounds, broadcasting them via a combined electronic audio and video signal, and reproducing them to be watched and heard,” according to the second description.

Third, as “the picture, sound, or content of a combined audio and video broadcast,” and fourth, as “the business of producing and transmitting programmes that mix visuals and sound.”

This multi-purpose approach supports the singular word process outlined before. Establishing a single definition is challenging.

Television has evolved dramatically since its inception. The television set has progressed technologically from a mechanical mechanism exhibited by Scottish engineer John Logie Baird to enormous high definition screens.

We’ve started to shift away from watching television as a group to watching it alone on mobile devices. As a result of these changes, television stations have been pushed to reconsider their role in society.

While some may say that television is fading, it will continue to exist as a term and an institution.

It’s unclear how it’ll be defined or what it’ll look like, but history shows that old media never dies.