I had a conversation with my Dad about what TV and media was like for him growing up. My Dad grew up in Christchurch, in New Zealand in the 1960s-70’s, in a 3 bedroom house on a ¼ acre section. He lived with his brother, 3 sisters and his mum and dad. His family bought their first television in the early 70s when dad was about 10 or 11. Until then their TV viewing involved having an early bath on a Sunday afternoon and getting into their pyjamas by about 4pm and heading over to the neighbor’s place to watch whichever Disney movie was playing that afternoon. The kids would usually lie a metre or so in front of the TV while the adults would sit behind them on the couch without anyone’s views being blocked by stray heads. He notes that the TV would be situated in the living room which was a relaxed area, with the aerial placed on top in the middle of the TV. As TV was a big expensive electrical piece of equipment, it was given a wide berth from any decorative pot plants which people may accidentally spill water from when they’re being watered. Also unlike today, the TV had nothing to do with dinner in the sense that meals were eaten at the dining table, not from the laps of a family engrossed in reality television from the couch.
Dad’s most memorable moment watching TV wasn’t the moon landing (which he can’t actually remember watching at all unlike most people from his generation) it was in fact, waking up at 3am with his mum to watch the 1973 FA cup final being played live on TV. Sunderland beat Leeds 1-0 in good old black and white definition. New Zealand didn’t get colour TV until the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, and they only got it then because they needed to broadcast it in colour to the rest of the world. Australia were 18 months or so behind New Zealand getting colour television in 1975.
Dad also remembers people in intermediate school, coming to school and discussing the latest Sesame Street episode, which really goes to show it’s not always been just for little kids.
I asked him about what advertising and commercials were like on TV when he was younger. Dad replied that they wouldn’t interrupt the programs as frequently, instead of commercial breaks running every 7 or so minutes, the shows would run for about 15-20 minutes before being forced to watch some jingles. Dad and his brother when they were about 12, begun doing a little active protest against advertising and would refuse to watch the ads by turning around or covering their faces so they couldn’t see. However,this quickly backfired when they begun to make a competition out of who would name the ad first, often taking only a few opening notes or half a word before they would name the brand. Dad claimed that although they weren’t watching them, they ended up paying more attention to them by actively trying to avoid seeing them because they could still hear them! Albeit he claims that ads and jingles on TV were a lot more enjoyable and funny compared to the ones we have today, as they seemed to be better thought out.
So when asking Dad’s opinion on how he thinks TV is different in today’s society, this is what he has to say;
“Television, is possibly less pervasive now than it was 10 years ago. People don’t stop everything to watch TV. Because they have their smart devices, they can watch TV later…In Australia they talk about ‘ The race which stops the nation’ (Melbourne Cup) that everyone huddles around their TV to watch, that type of thing, yes that still occurs. But for example the Lindt Café Shooting, people would’ve had to have rushed off to the nearest department store to watch the TV, but now they just look it up on the internet. The only other thing that I’ve read about TV is that your brain is more active when watching an open fire than it is when you’re watching TV. There’s more going on in your brain. Because people have shorter attention spans now days and the unfortunate thing is, that the commercial reality of TV is that people want to sell things from it. It’s not so much product placement but it’s just everywhere. The one thing I really hate about Australian advertising and also the rest of the Western World is how everywhere you look you see gambling ads. These ads make Australian kids unable to unassociate rugby league from gambling. They see it all the time, if I go to look up on google what games are gonna be on at what time, like the NRL this afternoon the first thing that comes up are the odds. “
Television is a media space which has offered people insight into what is going on elsewhere in the world since its invention in 1926 in Scotland. It has been shaped with different technological innovations however still does basically the same thing it has since it then, through conveying a message to the audience through video images and sound projections. No matter how you define it, it has always had the ability to bring people together, even if it’s just heading over to the neighbour’s in your pyjamas at 4pm to watch Disney Movies, and that’s wonderful.