Television. It’s been the dominant form of entertainment now for a very, very long time. Nothing takes up more of our recreational time: in the distant past of 2010, people in the UK on average viewed four hours of television a day. That’s a sixth of your day gone to sitting on a sofa and watching reality TV shows, the news and sport, and other entertainment broadcasted to your house. News programmes make up a big part of what we watch: we may not think it, but watching the news was a pretty important part of our days. Was.
Because now, a new contender is rising to be our source of worldwide knowledge. A source that has TV panting to keep up, as it’s quickly outpaced by the sheer speed and potential of its competitor. I am, of course, talking about the Internet.
The sheer speed of data flow is a key part of what makes the Internet such an important news device. Reporters, bloggers and eyewitnesses can upload information, videos and pictures almost instantaneously, and they can be viewed, copied and saved by anyone just as quickly. Take the recent sex tape scandals from women such as X-Factor judge Tulisa. A sex tape in the old days would have literally been a videotape, and the likelihood of anyone in the public seeing it would have been absurd. Nowadays, the news made the headlines, and spread throughout the Internet like wildfire, and once it was downloaded onto hard drives, it became impossible to recover.
It also means that Internet news sites are now becoming faster than TV by a long shot. Information about Osama Bin Laden’s death was up on the web almost as soon as it happened, for example. And media outlets are starting to take notice.
Most newspapers and TV channels have had a website for a very long time now: but recently, their updating and maintenance has become incredibly proficient. Live news bulletins of spots games are common, with near perfect harmony getting ever closer to reality (as it is, there’s maybe a moment’s gap). Apps for mobile devices are also becoming a big thing, with news being streamed straight to your phone courtesy of the BBC, The Guardian and others via the Internet.
Internet is also starting to turn the tide against other forms of traditionally TV-based entertainment as well, with on demand services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player playing shows that you want to watch, whenever you want to watch them. 4OD has just released its entire back catalogue online for people to watch. The profits from this are generally redeemed through advertising, in a manner similar to how private TV channels work, though most online ads have the opportunity to be “skipped” five or six seconds in. This is especially useful if you are out of the country, and wish to watch episodes that aren’t shown on your TV, and is something hopefully American TV companies will catch onto soon, if only to prevent illegal channels from doing it themselves and taking a cut of their profits.
Does this, however, mean the end of television? Will Internet soon replace TV as the primary source of viewable media? Well, for the time being, no. A large amount of the populace simply don’t have good enough quality Internet connections for sustained television watching, and news programmes are slowly becoming more personality driven, with recognisable faces and, potentially, personalities further down the line. There’s also BBC News 24 and other 24-hour news channels that do a reasonable job keeping up with the web. However, as time goes by and Internet connections get stronger, then I feel it’s highly likely that the Internet will replace traditional television broadcasting.
Until, of course, whatever comes after the Internet. Now that’s a scary thought…