Is Television Ready for the Public?

Before the war about 7,000 television sets had been sold to the American public. The purchasers were all in or near a handful of cities, among them New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Schenectady, and Los Angeles, where there were television stations broadcasting regularly scheduled pro-grams. Television pictures cannot be picked up much farther away than 50 miles from the transmitter.

The persons who bought these sets paid anywhere from $175 to $600 for a bulky piece of furniture that gave them a blurry, greenish picture about 10 inches square. The programs they saw were good, bad, and indifferent. Some of the outstanding ones provided real entertainment. Among these, baseball, football, basketball, and hockey games have be-come regular television fare. There were also such special broadcasts as the circus, a performance of the opera I Pagliacci with stars of the Metropolitan, and a condensed version of the Broadway play Susan and God with Gertrude Lawrence.

Since the beginning of the war, television research has continued, and programs are being sent out by 6 commercial television stations and 3 experimental stations. Some stations are attempting “live” television shows with actors and, actresses going through their paces in front of television cameras. However, most of the entertainment today, consists of “canned” programs, or sound movies. Most of these are third-rate pictures that you wouldn’t knowingly pay to see. Television studios cannot get good feature pictures from the film studios because Hollywood fears that if it lets television show good pictures, people will stay home and not go to the movie theaters. In rebuttal, some television promoters have threatened to start making feature-length movies with big-name stars especially for television use.

The industry predicts

Few industries are as ready to discuss publicly their postwar plans as are the television equipment manufacturers and the broadcasters. Newspaper and magazine advertisements are now being used to tell you what kind of television you’ll be able to buy after the war and how much it will cost you.

The television industry is split into three groups, each of which has taken a definite stand. First, there are those who say television is ready for the public now. They want a green light so that television sets can replace other electronic equipment on the production lines as soon as wartime production slackens.

There are others who say that television is not ready for the public. They believe that the television picture you see on the present receiver can be improved by further experimental and laboratory work. Therefore, they say, a better picture should be developed before television sets are produced and offered for sale.

Finally, there are those who say nothing, publicly. These people have their own plans and ideas which they are keeping very much to themselves.

Is television ready for the public? The decision on that question rests chiefly with three groups. First, the United States government’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which allocates the radio frequencies television will use. Second, the television industry—both manufacturing and broadcasting. Finally, you and the folks next door, the people who will accept or reject television.

Should motion-picture studios make their good feature pictures available to television? Should television broadcasters produce their own motion pictures for the exclusive use of television? Would you, without knowing more about it, go out and buy a television receiver today, if you could afford it, just to have one?