Illusions of Actuality

in Science on the Air

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780226467597
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226466958 | DOI:
Illusions of Actuality

Show Summary Details


In the television era, science programming survived at the network level only if it conformed to a fast-paced, irreverent, time-conscious context. Communication of scientific information via television became fragmented and dominated by entertainment values. Popular science was shuttled to the sidelines by network executives unconcerned about altruistic goals of public education. During the 1950s and 1960s, the proportion of television's daily schedule allocated to explaining science declined at the same time that science's accomplishments were gaining ever greater relevance to society. American television viewers never demanded otherwise, and the scientific community turned back to the laboratory with only sporadic, token, and generally ineffective complaint. Two types of programs from that early decade of television demonstrate broadcasting's rapid shift toward entertainment. The first, exemplified by The Johns Hopkins Science Review, adapted radio's educational approaches to a visual context. These presentations retained radio's tone of control and dignity. The second, introduced by a group of one-hour specials underwritten by the Bell Telephone System, altered the landscape of broadcast science. The Bell-funded programs demonstrated to the television industry that science need not be dull. They introduced exciting visual techniques for presenting science, and, perhaps most important, they raised audience expectations for popular science.

Keywords: television broadcasting; science programming; popular science; television shows; The Johns Hopkins Science Review; Bell Telephone System; television programs

Chapter.  10899 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Media Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.