How does one define television? What is it? Cinema at home?
Spectacle? A kind of journalism? A new type of art? Is it a new technological gadget or a breakthrough in aesthetics? Television is not only a means of mass video information, but a new type of art capable of conveying aesthetically treated impressions at a distance. Television today has a larger audience than the cinema. There are thousands of transmitting and relay station in the world. That seems to be changing even the cosmic nature of our planet by making its radio characteristics similar to giant stars. No other religion can bring together such a vast number of unlike-thinking worshippers as television.
As a means of video information television has great social value. Its frontiers are expanding. Already one can transmit TV programmers from the ground, from underground, from under water, from the air and even from outer space. The TV eye can see what the human eye is unable to see. “Better see once than hear a hundred times.” This old proverb provides an unexpected comment on the advantages of television over radio and a partial answer to the question why television has acquired its own artistic and expressive means.
What are these means? The TV screen is illuminated from within and so has a somewhat different texture and lighting and composition laws than the cinema screen. Light is the most powerful expressive means on television’s expressive potential is greatly enhanced by angle, montage, the movement of camera and close-ups. It characteristically combines smooth, “hidden” montage with abrupt breaks and shifts to another object of attention.
Television for all its photographic and documentary nature, its closeness to the object has a great potential for selecting and interpreting reality. At the same time it carries the danger of standardizing men’s thinking. “Mass consumption” of the same intellectual products, if their quality is inferior, may cause clichés in public consciousness. In television, the aesthetic aspect and artistic level of programmers is particularly important.
The fact that of television is part of the domestic setting makes it akin to applied art. It is an art that has entered our home and has become part of our everyday life.
At the dawn television Eisenstein predicted a new quality of the cot in this type of art.
An idea presenter of a television programme is a lively, “un-programmed” and “unrehearsed” person, a host of the programme who creates a talk of the viewers, is able to tactfully involve those present in an informal conversation and draw them out of their shells. To be sure, spontaneity in art is usually achieved by hard work and effort. But no matter how much effort has gone into good poetry it always easily and naturally from the poet’s soul. The same ought to be true of a TV programmed. Everyone who appears on the TV screen involuntarily becomes, not only a person who has a certain occupation in life but a living image, a character in artistic reportage in a new type of art.
Television requires a special kind of talent. A TV personality must combine the qualities of an actor, journalist and director, charm and erudition, facility in communicating with people, instant reaction, resourcefulness, wit, improvisation skill and a civic commitment and passion. So far, unfortunately, not all the professional media men appearing on television meet these standards.
An important aesthetic feature of television is that it shows “hear-and-now” event, a direct on-the-spot report and involves the viewer in the stream of history which is happening today and which can be the subject of newsreels only tomorrow and of literature, theatre and art the day after tomorrow, So far live reporting has usually been confined to such occasions as big football games, figure-skating competitions, meetings of cosmonauts, parades, etc. But history is made not only on festive days. It is extremely valuable to “peep” at the natural flow of life through the eyes of a television camera and an intelligent and resourceful commentator capable of vivid improvisation. There are great possibilities in the hidden camera observing the flow of life on a crowded street corner, in a shop, office or port.
In a TV report screen time is equal to real time. When television resorts to newsreel format, it must preserve the sense of immediacy, of the viewer being present at the event.
The following account of a successful program on Central TV pinpointed an important distinguishing feature of television as a genre. It all started when a TV studio received a letter from a Ukrainian woman who was looking for the grave of her son who had died during the Second World War. After much search it was established that the soldier died in the battle for a small Czech town and was buried there. It turned out that the inhabitants of the town and was buried there. It turned out that the inhabitants of the town remembered the hero, honoured his memory and named one of the Young Pioneer units after him. The head of that unit was a young girl who has lost her parents during the war. When the soldier’s mother learnt about it she adopted her without ever having seen her. Moscowcinema and television reporters asked the mother if she would appear on TV and speak to her adopted daughter. The scene was filmed. Czechoslovak television did the same on its side. Then the films were exchanged and on a fixed day and hour mother and daughter were invited to television studios in Pragueand Moscow. The mother was shown a film about her daughter and the daughter a film about her mother. They were then able to speak to each other, over the telephone. It was an emotional conversation of people who had just seen each other on the screen and had heard each other’s voice for the first time. All this was telecast simultaneously by Pragueand Moscowtelevision. It was an unusually moving programme for it showed real characters and feelings of people that spilled out under unusual circumstances.
The secret of the programme’s success was a new peculiarly television method : the search for a situation in which human characters, feelings and thoughts express themselves naturally. In television the “unconditional authenticity” of what is being portrayed is crucial. Television can include the whole world within our field of vision. It may make the viewer think in terms of the whole nation, the whole mankind and reflect over the destinies of the world. It is capable of analyzing the state of the world and revealing it in vivid and tangible images. Television must have this philosophical element if it is to produce its own classics, something’s without which no art can exist. Television is a powerful information medium, which may carry artistic content as well. Television is wonderful for relaying major events in the artistic world. It can also be a great teacher.
The subject of television art is the whole world. The adolescent muse is growing up, getting its won voice, its vision of life, its attitude to things and its poetics.