television 4973

in Southern states, where religious convictions
as a whole have greater salience then they do in
the rest of the country; hence religious broad
casting may simply intensify already existing
convictions rather than change alternative
worldviews. Across the entire audience, further
more, viewers are not ordinary unchurched, but
are comparatively religious in the first place.
Hence, there is little basis for a concern that
religious television is substituting for worship
ping with a congregation; the majority of view
ers who are not otherwise religiously active are
among the elderly, the immobile, and the
chronically infirm, who would not swell the
participatory ranks of congregants if televange
lism were to cease.

SEE ALSO: Fundamentalism; Media; Popular
Religiosity; Religion; Television


Alexander, B. (1994) Televangelism Reconsidered:
Ritual in the Search for Human Community. Scho-
lars Press, Atlanta.
Armstrong, B. (1979) The Electric Church. Nelson,
Hadden, J. & Shupe, A. (1988) Televangelism: Power
and Politics on Gods Frontier. Holt, New York.
Hoover, S. (1988) Mass Media Religion: The Sources
of the Electronic Church. Sage, Newbury Park, CA.
Schultze, Q. (1991) Televangelism and American Cul
ture. Baker, Grand Rapids, MI.


Toby Miller

What is television? It is an object that is pro
duced in a factory, then distributed physically
(via transportation) and virtually (via advertis
ing). At that point it transmogrifies into a fash
ion statement, a privileged (or damned) piece of
furniture a status symbol. Finally, it becomes
outmoded junk, full of poisons and pollutants
in search of a dumping ground. In short, tele
vision has a physical existence, a history as an
object of material production and consumption
in addition to its renown as a site for making
meaning. That renown is the focus of most
sociological theory and research into the media.
Prior to the emergence of TV appliances and
services, people fantasized about the transmis
sion of image and sound across space. Richard
Whittaker Hubbell made the point by publish
ing a book in 1942 entitled 4000 Years of Tele
vision. The device even has its own patron
saint, Clare of Assisi, a teen runaway from the
thirteenth century who became the first Fran
ciscan nun. She was canonized in 1958 for her
bedridden vision of images from a midnight
mass cast upon the wall, which Pius XII
decided centuries later was the first broadcast.
As TV proper came close to realization, it
attracted intense critical speculation. Rudolf
Arnheims 1935 Forecast of Television pre
dicted it would offer viewers simultaneous glo
bal experiences, transmitting railway disasters,
professorial addresses, town meetings, boxing
title fights, dance bands, carnivals, and aerial
mountain views a spectacular montage of
Broadway and Vesuvius. A common vision
would surpass the limitations of linguistic com
petence and interpretation. TV might even
bring global peace with it, by showing specta
tors that we are located as one among many.
But this was no nave welcome. Arnheim
warned that television is a new, hard test of
our wisdom. The emergent mediums easy
access to knowledge would either enrich or
impoverish its viewers, manufacturing an
informed public, vibrant and active, or an indo
lent audience, domesticated and passive (Arn
heim 1969: 1603). Two years after Arnheim,
Barrett C. Kiesling (1937: 278) said it is with
fear and trembling that the author approaches
the controversial subject of television. Such
concerns about TV have never receded. They
are the very stuff of sociologys inquiries into
this bewildering device.
Like most sociological domains, the study of
television is characterized by severe contesta
tion over meanings and approaches, not least
because its analysts speak different languages,
use different methods, and pursue different
questions (Hartley 1999: 18). Broadly speak
ing, TV has given rise to three key topics: