from taking advantage of colour TV to Foxtel – television memories

When I think back to my earliest memories of watching television; I’m taken back to one of the fondest recollections of my childhood of when I would return home from school, placing down my backpack (which was nearly as big as my body) and slumping down on the couch, pigging out on snacks and watching ABC’s afternoon children programs. This ritual goes hand in hand with the afternoons I spent playing in the backyard, attending dance class and reading or drawing in my bedroom.

It was a simpler time, as they all say. Homework was minimal, bedtime was early (which was a curse then, now seems like a blessing) and what I saw on the media was idealised, easy to watch programs as my attention always switched off as soon as the news came on.

However, something was missing, and this became clear in my later years of primary school: pay TV. All of my friends would endlessly speak about all of the awesome shows on the Disney channel, discussing their favourite shows, characters, plot twists, it went on and on. And I could never relate. I would sleep in so late I would almost always miss Saturday Disney and Grandma’s Foxtel package didn’t include the channel. With that being said, Foxtel at Grandma’s was always an exciting experience. It was an opportunity to watch some of the best classic kid shows, including the honourable mention of SpongeBob Squarepants, and immerse myself in a part of culture that I usually couldn’t access. Later on, in high school, I would always jump at the opportunity to watch music channels on my best friends Foxtel the morning after a sleepover, sitting in the living room until the late afternoon sometimes.

When thinking about these scenarios there’s a pattern, that often, television memories are deeply embedded in our social experiences as it is treated as a prompt for social gatherings, even when the main activity doesn’t involve speaking, but the consumption of media as a group is uniting whether it be routine visits to my Grandma’s house or enjoying the treasured weekends with my best friend. This pattern was clearly extended into my parents’ memories of television, specifically my mother’s, as one of her more memorable moments of early television was going to her next-door neighbours’ house to watch their colour TV as they were the only family in the area to have owned one at the time.

For my Dad, the first thing he remembers when thinking of when he started watching colour TV was the very specific memory of being in awe of how bright the red of Gilligan’s shirt was.

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All of these memories reflect the two images that Sonia Livingstone describes when discussing the television at home; one being the “quintessential image … of the family viewing at home- sitting together comfortably in front of the lively set.” and “a child viewing alone while real life goes on elsewhere.” (Livingstone 2009) My mum supported this claim, as her household was the quintessential image Livingstone described as “after father came home from work … television represented a key means by which father, by choosing to watch ‘his’ programmes, asserted his economic power.” (Livingstone 2009) This is what prompted family time for them, but as she and her sister grew older a separation in interest of what was on TV occurred, leading to them buying a second TV set and placing it in the other living room. This was the shift that turned TV from a social activity to an interest based one as “the increasing diversity of channels (is) resulting in greater fragmentation of the audience.” (Livingstone 2009) This fragmentation has increased even more, along with “individualisation” nowadays, as it is extremely rare that I will ever sit down to watch TV with my family, the living room has really just become a place where I come and go, very different to the central social location it used to be for families.

Reference

Livingstone, S 2009 ‘Half a century of television in the lives of our children.’ The ANNALS of the American academy of political and social science, 625 . pp. 151-163

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