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Mass Communication 220

Understanding Television

Number of Credits: 3

Length of Course: 14 weeks

Classroom Hours per Week: 4

Prerequisites: Mass Communication 110, Mass Communication 130 and 12 credits

Corequisite: English 100

Text: There is no text for this course. Students will receive weekly readings

Course Description:

This course explores the origins and development of television as a mass medium and cultural form, the variety of critical reponses it has generated, and the basic debates and critical frameworks that structure tevelesion studies. How television is viewed by producers, advertisers, and viewers, and critical television viewing and interpretation skills will be discussed.

The phenomenon of television is considered by many to be one of the defining social, political and cultural features of the 20th century. It has had a profound effect on domestic and public life and on our personal and collective senses of time. It has contributed in fundamental ways to our experience of ourselves and our society. Many consider television to be the ultimate machine of post-war mass consumer culture.

Course Outline:

Week Chapter
Week 1 Introduction
Week 2, 3, 4

Origin and History of Broadcast Television in America and Europe.

Topics include:
Origin of TV in other media
Similarities and differences
Institutional structures and interests
Forms of ownership
Role of advertising
Audience attention as product
Public sphere, private sphere
Public Interest and Private Interest (profit)

Week 5 Technology

Topics include:
How TV images and sounds are produced
How TV images and sounds are transmitted
How TV images and sounds are received

Weeks 6, 7, 8

The Effects of Television

Topics include:
Physiological effects
Psychological effects
Social and cultural effects
Political and economic effects
Effects theories & issues

Weeks 9, 10 & 11

Television Structures & Forms; Critical Viewing Strategies

Topics include:
TV formats & genres
Live versus playback TV
Program categories
Presentational versus representational styles
Genre & gender/age
Television rhetoric: communication & persuasion
TV production techniques as communication
Fiction/fact (“fictionality” versus “facticity”)
Audience measurement/surveillance
Construction of “believability”
Public sphere/private sphere

Weeks 12 & 13

The End of Television

Topics include:
New technologies; new gadgets
Corporate and technological convergence
Globalization & communication
Virtual geography
Virtual TV


Two Mid-term Exams (Weeks 5 & 9) 20% each
Final Exam 30%
In Class Presentation 20%
Participation 10%


Jean Hebert, B.A. (British Columbia), M.A. (Simon Fraser)aser)
Ian Chunn, B.A., M.A. (Toronto), B.Ed. (British Columbia)

Transferability: see