Shifting Power: Internet taking over Television?

TV is changing and it is going to change dramatically…

Nowadays, there are several new television initiatives such as Apple TV, the Roku Player, Boxee box and Google TV, that connect the television to an internet enabled interface providing access to online content platforms such as Netflix and YouTube.

“Shifting Power: How Google TV entered the living room”, written by Geert Faber, discusses the the historic development of television and how this had lead to the concept of internet TV. He researches the historical developments of the medium and how these developments have shaped the concept of Television. He uses Google TV as a case study to show the convergence of television and the internet and how it affects our understanding of television.

Historical development of Television

Television as a medium has been changing ever since its commercial and domestic acceptance in the UK and the US after the Second World War. Not only the technical developments, but also the cultural and social acceptance have changed with the development of the medium. The introduction of commercial broadcasters, color television, increased screen sizes, cable boxes, satellite transmission, portable TV, the growth of the VCR, DVD, and DVR, and more recently the connectivity with the web, have shaped and influenced the way television is perceived and utilized.

“Television has been a transient and unstable medium for the technological change, its cultural transformation, being ephemeral present, and its seeming everydayness (Uricchio, 2004; p. 165).”

Changing Audience

Television is now considered to be losing its “trust” as powerful censorship denies open access to television, and the capabilities of the (mass) media to construct reality (cf. Couldry 2000; Bourdieu, 2001). On the other hand, The internet has revolutionized the way people, communicate, access information and how they respond and comment on social and political issues. According to Habermas the internet has created its own “public sphere” (Habermas, 1989). “The space where people come together as citizens and articulate their autonomous views to influence the political institutions of society”(Castells, 2008).

In “The People Formerly Known as the Audience”(2012), Jay Rosen argues that the citizens were used to look ‘up’ the information from the centers of power/social agencies but today people are looking ‘across’ the information – from citizen to citizen – by someone’s tweet or by someone’s post on Facebook…etc.

The Burmese Saffron Revolution(2007) is a great example of this change in the audience and the broadcast medium. The Burmese government attempted to block all websites and services that could carry news or information about Myanmar, barring access to web-based email. However bloggers in Yangon succeeded in circumventing the censors, posting pictures and videos on blogs/Facebook/Twitter/Youtube/Vimeo almost as soon as the protests began. There was no way that the government could control the access of the Internet from the networked public.It ultimately indicated the mainstream media to rebroadcast and repackage these citizen journalist’s reports, made from the front line, around the world.

Additionally, Faber claims that the declining interest of a young audience in the traditional form of television and the move toward more interactive and participatory channels, forces the industry to react. Although viewers are still watching traditional television content on domestic television screens in the living room, this is changing rapidly, especially in the 12- to 17-year old market. An important reason for this is the heterotopic nature of YouTube. By providing the ability to respond, comment, and exchange videos, and by facilitating a social and networked experience, these web initiatives are inviting the audiences to feel more engaged, involved and therefore be an ‘active participant’ than ever before.

Now, the audiences are not just observers sitting behind the set/the screen, they have just as much power to report and explore what they need to say to the world.

Internet and Television- flexible microcasting

Increasingly, more and more television sets are in some way connected to the internet. However, the internet played an important role for creating a next-generation television audience. Over the past few years, there has been an ‘inter-media-cooperation’(Buonanno, 2008) between the internet and television content with the proliferation of official and non-official websites, chat rooms, newsgroups, forums, games, and on-line shopping that are dedicated to a huge number of television programmes (p. 62-63).

Especially, YouTube does not only provide personalized channels supported by complex algorithms and community functions (e.g. commenting, sharing, and saving videos), but also offers users to create and distribute their own content – like “The Juice Media” that Brian has shown us during the lecture. Ferber argues that these more accessible media technologies and platforms open possibilities for the commercialization of amateur generated content.

However, in order to become famous online and reach a celebrity status (such as Ryan Higa and his Nigahiga channel) it seems you still have to pass through the old media gate-keeping mechanisms including advertisement deals, film festivals, and recording contracts (Burgess & Green, 2009).

Furthermore, the way that broadcast TV constructed is shifted now. The traditional concept of flow is replaced by ‘user-generated’ flow. For instance, RMITV “Live On Bowen” Talk Show, aired on Channel 31, which I participate as a crew, utilizes this audience participatory nature successfully. If you watch this short video of the show(above), there’s the segment, where we ask the network audiences to participate and provide their thoughts about “what should Rob do this weekend?”, with the link to YOUTUBE video examples. This way, our TV-shows are able to be broadly advertised, actively participated and present fresh/new/unique/entertaining contents every week by clever “creators” out in the world!

New networked era of television, users are effectively engaging with information networks, media interfaces, and the programming and protocological code that describes both networks and interfaces (Chamberlain, 2011; p. 16).

The technology changes are certainly offering more ways to reach audiences. Television is not dying, it will continuously be around us, developing with us. TV is going to be more interactive and more easily accessible in future.


  • Bourdieu, Pierre. ‘Television’. European Review, Vol. 9, No. 3, 2001: p. 245–256.
  • Bonanno, Milly. The age of television: experiences and theories. Bristol: Intellect Books, 2008.
  • Burgess, Jean, Joshua Green. YouTube: Online video and participatory culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009.
  • Castells, Manual, 2008, ‘The New Public Sphere: Global Civil Society, Communication Networks, and Global Governance’, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 616, March 2008, p 78 – 93
  • Chamberlain, Daniel. ‘Media interfaces, networked media spaces, and the mass customization of everyday space’. In: Michael Kackman, et al., ed. Flow TV: Television in the age of media convergence. New York: Routeledge, 2011: p. 13-29.
  • Faber, Geert. ‘Shifting Power: How Google TV entered the living room’. In Thesis New Media & Television studies. Amsterdam, 2011, p.4 – 35.
  • Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article” Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Chapter 5, 73-78
  • Uricchio, William. ‘Television’s next generation: technology/interface culture/flow’. In: Lynn Spigel, Jan Olsson, ed. Television after TV: essay on a medium in transition. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004: p. 163-18

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About Jenny

Nice to meet you all. This is my personal blog where I post things about my interest on Television. I'm from South Korea, currently studying media and comm at RMIT. I love Television shows, films and documentaries.

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