Television's Split Personality

KUBA Komet from Television History - The First 75 Years
Walter Cronkite at CBS
Glamourous Eva Gabor 1966 from TV Guide 50th
Vietnam TV from AFRTS
Apollo 11 camera replica from SI
Armstrong's step from SI
All in the Family 11/29/71
1960 - ABC's violent telefilm The Untouchables rated number 1 by Arbitron that used electronic device in a fixed sample of homes to measure channels watched every 90 seconds. "... a split personality pattern was becoming the network norm, One part, the news division, was always preparing for, and welcoming, the grandstand interruptions that had become its specialty, and that gave scope to its developing resources and skills. The other part, the real money-making part, was thereby enabled to go ahead with normal business, such as telefilms." (Barnouw 260)

1961 - The KUBA "Komet" modernistic console set made in Germany included 21-inch TV, short-wave and long-wave radio, stereo phonograph changer, with the option to add a tape recorder and a remote control. According to Television History - The First 75 Years this set sold for about $700 in 1961.

1962 - The CBS comedy The Beverly Hillbillies premiered in September and rose rapidly to the number 1 rating, watched by 38% of American homes. On Oct. 22, Kennedy declared a blockade around Cuba in a dramatic primetime speech, issuing an ultimatum to Khrushchev to "halt and eliminate this clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace," using the word "nuclear" eleven times. The shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby was videotaped by NBC and replayed throughout the world. "In 1962 American television presented bizarre juxtapositions. The two worlds often seemed incompatible. They represented the two worlds into which television had fissioned. Within television they were interdependent, but antagonistic." (Barnouw 314)

1963 - CBS Evening News expanded from 15 to 30 minutes Sept. 2, followed by NBC Sept. 9, and ABC in 1967. The November funeral of assassinated President Kennedy drew the highest ratings in TV history with 93% of TV homes watching.

1964 - NBC showed 50 commercials during the 2-hour broadcast of the Today show every weekday morning. "Almost all hours shared in the rising affluence" of network television. (Barnouw 350). CBS canceled East Side/West Side about a New York social worker starring George C. Scott because it reached only a 26% share of the audience. The Democratic party produced the Daisy Girl negative commercial

1965 - The "massive escalation" of U.S. troops sent to Vietnam to stop communism created another age of paranoia. Heroes chased a legion of enemy spies in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., with Robert Vaughn, in Mission: Impossible with Peter Graves (and Greg Morris playing one of the few serious black character roles on television, as an electronics genius), in I Spy with Robert Culp. But the "most startling item to reach the air in 1965 was a report by Morley Safer" that showed Marines burning a village with the flick of a cigarette lighter, yet such critical reports rarely reached primetime. (Barnouw 380).

1966 - The Senate hearings of J. William Fulbright investigating the Vietnam war began in Feb., but John A. Schneider of CBS decided to air reruns of I Love Lucy and The Real McCoys rather than the testimony of former Ambassador George Kennan, causing Fred Friendly to resign. NBC broadcast Doomsday Flight about a fictional bomb threat against an airliner; after the broadcast, the FAA recorded a sudden increase in telephone bomb threats.

1967 - The NET broadcast of Inside North Vietnam produced by Felix Greene for CBS (but not broadcast by CBS) revealed use of anti-personnel mines by the American military and provided an intimate view of the "enemy" population, and it exemplified "the slippage of commercial television and the shift elsewhere." (Barnow 396) The Ford Foundation financed the development of the Public Broadcast Laboratory (PBL) and Congress created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Nov. 7.

1968 - Television and radio "were for many a psychological refuge, a fortress. Except for the occasionally disturbing documentaries, evening television confirmed the average man's view of the world. It presented the America he wanted and believed in and had labored to be part of. It was alive with handsome men and women, and symbols of the good life." (Barnouw 403). The networks produced wholesome and warm family shows such as Bonanza, The Big Valley, The Addams Family, The Munsters. Telefilms celebrated "the American ethic of hegemony and supremacy." (Barnouw 405) The values of fortune, success, glitter, beauty dominated the primetime world of I Dream of Jeannie and Green Acres. But 1968 was a year of "turmoil and violence" with the shooting of Martin Luther King April 4, of Robert Kennedy June 5, and with the televised coverage of violence at the Democratic National Convention in August. CBS began the long-running 60 Minutes created and produced by former Life magazine reporter Don Hewitt.

1969 - In July, Apollo 11 transmitted TV pictures from the surface of the moon. Westinghouse developed the seven-pound SEC vidicon camera for NASA based on the Secondary Electron Conduction tube of Dr. G..W. Goetze and integrated circuit technology of the engineering team led by Stanley Lebar. "The lunar TV camera's tiny electronics helped create a whole new way of gathering news. In 1969, TV stations shot news footage on film -- film that had to be developed before images could be seen, film incapable of being shown live. Some argued this was good. Film was slow, so news producers had time to reflect, and make sound news judments. Yet when the moonwalk's electronics and satellite breakthroughs became commercially available, TV news changed -- suddenly, and forever. Lightweight, portable video-cameras took the news out of the studio and into the field. Live TV from the studio was replaced by live broadcasts from just about anywhere." (from Newseum). The Apollo 11 landing was seen by 500 million people world-wide. "If an empire needed bread and circuses, here was the greatest circus in history." (Barnouw 428).1969 - Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek ended after 3 years and 79 episodes, celebrating empire and space exploration, but never ranked higher than number 52 with a 28% share of the audience. The successor Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for 178 episodes from 1987-1994. "The shock waves from the 1968 turmoil and violence had reverberating effects on broadcasting. The sense that much of television programming had become irrelevnt was strongly felt among both executives and producers. The 1969 cry was for 'relevance'." (Barnouw 430). Yet The Mod Squad and Julia and Sesame Street competed with Laugh-In and Hee-Haw.

1970 - Sept. 21 Roone Arledge began Monday Night Football on ABC, paying $8.5 million to the NFL for the rights to 14 games, and $30,000 to former Dallas quarterback Don Meredith to provide commentary with the team of Howard Cosell and Keith Jackson (replaced after the first year by Frank Gifford). Arledge used 9 field-level cameras and 2 full production units. James L. Brooks and Allen Burns began production of 168 episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show until 1977, winning 29 Emmy Awards, more than any show in TV history.

1971 - Norman Lear began production of All In the Family for 207 episodes until 1983. The CBS documentary The Selling of the Pentagon and the PBS series The Great American Dream Machine were critical of Nixon's policies

1972 - Americans witnessed Nixon's trips to China and Moscow but only in part, "characteristic of television diplomacy. They saw spectacular banquests, toasts, handshakes, and smiles, but learned almost nothing of what was said in off-camera talks." (Barnouw 449) Kissinger announced in Oct. that peace in Vietnam was "within reach" but none of the networks reported the Watergate conspiracy until after the election.

1973 - The televised Watergate hearings in July "became an obsession with viewers" (Barnouw 455) with a daily presentation of "espionage, sabotage, bribery, burglary, subordination of perjury."

1974 - Aug. 8 Nixon announced his resignation on television; VP Gerald Ford was shown Aug. 9 "opening the front door in his dressing gown" with a new style of presidency. Television was never meant to be a "neutral conduit" according to Justice Potter Stuart but rather was "a fourth institution outside government as an additional check on the three official branches." (Barnouw 463). Wheel of Fortune began its long reign as one of the top games shows in television hsitory. Good Times was one of the first shows to feature an all-black nuclear family, although Julia in the 1960s featured a widow and her young son. The CBS docudrama The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman used a fictional haracter to tell the civil rights story, but it was so realistic that New York Gov. Hugh Carey would give a speech citing Jane Pittman as an historically important African American leader.
GMA began 1975

1976 - The "quasi-scientific mystique" of demographics "was the word of the hour" and ABC under Fred Silverman became the number 1 network with shows that appealed to young audiences, especially women, and charging $59,000 per 30-second ad for the number 1 program Laverne and Shirley. Happy Days was number 2 with women 18-24. "In the mid-1970's demographic data seemed to favor heroes and heroines with magic powers" (Barnouw 469-471) such as The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. William Paley and Robert Saudek opened the Museum of Broadcasting in New York.

1976 - ABC paid $25 million for the rights to broadcast the Olympic games in Montreal, having broadcast 6 of the last 8 games, and billed sponsors $72,000 per minute for commercials, with Sears, Schlitz, Chevrolet the largest spenders. Roone Arledge devoted 74 primetime hours to the broadcast, narrated by Jim McKay, winning 45% share of the audience. ABC used 25 color cameras, including the first use of 4 Electronic Sports Gatherer (ESG) minicameras with protable backpack power sources.
Alex Hailey and star Burton

1977 - ABC presented the miniseries Roots on 8 consecutive nights Jan. 23-30. Network advertising sales grew 21% to $3.6 billion, and network profits grew to $.5 billion. 97% of all homes had at least one TV set, 45% had more than one, 77% of all sets were color. Adult women watched 30 hours per week, children 2-11 watched 25 hours, adult men watched 24 hours, teenagers watched 22 hours. "Yet despite the flow of cash and the public euphoria, a deep uneasiness was taking hold of American television. Its trade press kept chronicling technological developments - relating to cable, two-way television, pay-television, optical fiber, staellites, videodiscs, videocassettes, teletext -- that kept the industry in constant uncertainty about its future." (Barnouw 468)

1978 - NBC presented the four-part Holocaust Apr. 16-19. Network income from foreign program sales increased to $280 million. Dallas began on CBS Friday night, April 2, and would continue for 356 episodes to May 3, 1991, presenting the soap opera story of the rich and pretty Ewings throughout the Decade of Greed. Larry Hagman said at the end "I really can't remember half of the people I've slept with, stabbed in the back or driven to suicide."

1979 - The ABC program Good Morning America, started in 1975, unseated NBC's Today Show as the top-rated morning show. George Gerbner and Larry Gross reported in the 10th annual Violence Profile that crooks made up 17% of TV characters (1% in real life) and 65% of them commit violent acts on TV, and the more children watch TV the worse the perform in school. ABC created Nightline with Ted Koppel out of the frequent news reports on the hostages in Iran.

1980s - TV's "Second Golden Age" began with dramas such as L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, and continued into the 1990s with Picket Fences, NYPD Blue, Homicide and cable programs such as The Sopranos. After Picket Fences, David E. Kelley would write Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope, The Practice, and Snoops.

Doonesbury 10/13/80
1980 - The Moral Majority threatened to boycott "sex and violence " on network TV, but Dallas was number 1 and Dukes of Hazzard was number 2. Reagan won the Oct. 28 televised debate and defeated Carter with 50.7% of the popular vote in an election campaign that "belonged increasingly to the world of the television commercial." (Barnouw 483) These debates would have the greatest electoral impact since the 1960 debates. The ABC reality show That's Incredible drew 32% of the audience share with thrill shots of a stuntman trying to jump the fountain at Ceasar's Palace with a motocycle but crashing and breaking his pelvis and leg. Dan Rather replaced the retired Walter Cronkite on the number 1 CBS Evening News for $1.6 million per year.

1981 - CBS produced The Defense of the United States documentary on 5 evenings June 14-18 with the first images of a MIRV arhead and a simulated atomic attack on Omaha.

1982 - The National Institute of Mental Health published the report Television and Behavior that presented "overwhelming evidence that excessive violence on television causes aggressive behavior in children."

1984 - Meet the Press added a fourth camera for audience reaction shots, Marvin Kalb complained that guests had been narrowed to " an articulate elite" discussing limited issues that were "not really an honest reflection of reality" but favoring the funny and fast and fluent. In the November election, networks used exit polls to declare Reagan the winner before polls closed in 26 states. The Cosby Show began on NBC, was rated number 1 in 1988 with 42% share of audience, and would last 208 episodes until 1992, featuring Cliff and Claire Huxtable and their five children. Miami Vice began Sept. 16 on NBC: "Violence was pervasive and ritulaized." (Barnouw 513)

1985 - Barry Diller took over 20th Century Fox and created the Fox Network with the fianancial backing of Rupert Murdoch who had started his growing media empire in 1958 with a single broadcasting license in Australia, then expanded his ownership of television stations with the aquisition of Metromedia from billionaire John Kluge.

1986 - Capital Cities Communications took over ABC and began cutting costs due to loss of revenue.

1988 - NBC broadcast the Olympic summer games, but audience share fell to 17% from the 1984 Los Angles game share of 23%. The Iran-contra hearing began, "another televised spectacular on the Watergate model" (Barnouw 531) but Reagan was the "Teflon president" because of "the failure of the media to disclose painful and embarrasing facts." (Barnouw 533)

1989 - The Fox sitcom Married ... With Children caused controversy with its raunchy dialog and sexual humor, but attracted 11 million homes each Sunday night. NBC began Baywatch with as much emphasis on muscle-men as bikini-girls, and discovered a large female audience. The Bush adminstration censored press coverage of Operation Just Cause in Panama in December, allowing only limited access to a selected National Media Pool/

1990 - David Lynch produced the Twin Peaks series on ABC starting in April; Ken Burns produced The Civil War on PBS in September.

1991 - ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings was number 1 during the Persian Gulf War with 14% share of the audience over 12% for NBC and 11% for CBS. Jennings stayed in the New York studio while Rather and Brokaw flew to the gulf. The audience for primetime dramas was 61% female, causing a flurry of dramas as False Arrest with Donna Mills fighting the system after falsely accused of her husband's murder, and former Charlie's Angel Jaclyn Smith in The Rape of Dr. Willis who tries in surgery to save the life of the man who raped her.

1992 - Murphy Brown ended its 4th season with the birth of the unmarried star's baby; Candice Bergen was attacked by Vice-President Dan Quayle as an example of the decline of the American family. Michael Medved wrote in Hollywood vs. America that "the dream factory has become the poison factory." Jay Leno replaced Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show on NBC.

1994 - May 23 financier Ronald O. Perelman shifted the 12 stations of his New World Communications company to Murdoch's Fox network, and set off a scramble among national networks for control of affiliate stations. Warner Bros. became the fifth national network, anchored by the six big market stations of the Tribune Co. of Chicago.

Rivera in 1972
1995 - Federal funding of the Public Broadcasting Corporation dropped from 86% to 16% of total revenue since 1980, while corporate funding increased from 14% to 27%. Japan spent $32 and Britain spent $38 per citizen per year on public broadcasting but the U.S. spent $1.09. The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour received $6.8 from Archer Daniels Midland that was investigated for price-fixing, but without mention on the NewsHour. Point of View produced a documentary about gays in the workplace but it did not air due to opposition from the labor unions that fund P.O.V.

1997 - Geraldo Rivera signed a 6-year contract with NBC worth $30 million. "Rivera's new role as a ready-for-prime-time player for NBC reflects the star-driven nature of the television business. Proven ratings-getters have always been rewarded on both the entertainment and news sides, but have usually stayed within their niches. Now the NBC news hierarchy has announced itself eager to add a man who once relished his role as a leading figure of the genre known as 'trash television.' Rivera's 1972 expose on the abuses of mental patients at the Willowbrook State School, done while he was a young reporter for WABC-TV, was still mentioned frequently." (New York Times, 12/15/97)

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1999-2003 by Steven E. Schoenherr. All rights reserved.

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