Contemporary Media Spaces – Is Broadcast Television Still Relevant?

In the past few weeks, we have been exploring the media space. An interesting media space that we have been studying is that surrounding television. This has included conducting primary research into how television-watching has changed over time. In my previous post, I ‘interviewed’ my grandparents on what they remembered about how and where they watched television growing up. Through qualitative research, I learnt about the personal experiences of my Grandparents’ interaction with televisions, which unfolded during a very interesting time in Australian history.

It can be extremely difficult to conduct this type of research on complex social trends using quantitive methods. In this learning tool, Melissa Hurst explains the concept of ethnography and how it can be used as a qualitative research method to analyse and answer these complex questions. Ethnography is the study of cultures and cultural groups, from the perspective of the subject (Hurst, M). ‘Ethnographies’ literally translates to ‘writings about people groups’ (Hurst, M). Ethnographic research takes place in the natural setting of the subject (Hurst, M). This means that if we are studying people, then the research we are conducting takes place in their natural setting. We use ethnographies to observe cultural norms, behaviours, trends or interactions (Hurst, M).

When my grandparents were growing up, watching television was a family event. It was designated family time. The television took pride position in the living room, and the whole family would gathered around to watch.

Happy 1950's family

Happy 1950’s family

This is completely different to how I engage with the television sets in our household. We have a television, or device on which we watch television, in almost every room of the house. I rarely even my TV shows on an actual television set. Personally, I turn on the television set just to provide background noise, and watch TV shows on my laptop or iPad.

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

This trend, in how we now engage with physical televisions, should be the focus of analysis for contemporary media use in the home. Are people still watching TVs?

The traditional way to monitor television viewing habits has been through the use of a ratings system (Ellis-Christensen, 2015). In many countries, companies use in-house devices that track viewing habits, and use the sample data to estimate the average viewing habits of people of a certain age, gender and demographic (Ellis-Christensen, 2015). If you are interested in how this process works, check out Tricia Ellis-Christensen’s article. It gave my a better understanding of how the process actually works. These numbers, or ‘ratings’, give us an idea of how many people tune in to the television shows, but it doesn’t necessarily give us a clear picture of how that media is engaged with in the home.

“Media audience research is content-focused, and skews towards quantitative research.” Kate Bowles (2015), Coordinator, Lecturer and Tutor.

Quantitative data has been used to explain how people watch television. If you interested in this type of information, check out the Q1 2015 edition of the Australian Multi-Screen Report.

This type of data doesn’t explain the number of televisions left on purely to provide background noise. It doesn’t show the different levels of engagement with the televisions in the bedroom and those in the lounge room. This type of quantitative data doesn’t explain how people engage with television. What about the people who use their laptop, tablet or phone, or are on social media, while watching television? Approximately 3 in 4 Australians browse the internet while watching TV (A.C., Nielsen 2015, cited in Bowles, K 2015). How are these people engaging with their TV’s?

With this revolution in contemporary media usage, commercial researchers should be considering the individual stories of media space experiences. Researchers should be considering how people actually engage with the televisions in their households. But is this actually feasible?

Commercial research has such a strong preference for percentages, charts and graphs, which don’t have the same respect for the individual stories of the media spaces. What do these numbers and statistics actually mean in regards to the individual experiences in media spaces? Will traditional televisions soon become just big boxes of background noise? Or will they forever remain a dominant feature in the living and lounge room? Commercial researchers need to develop a better appreciation of individual’s media spaces to gauge a better understanding of the media space.

Feel free to leave me a comment down below on whether you believe physical televisions still maintain their relevance. Do you believe that new technologies for viewing TV shows are taking over?



Bowles, K 2015 BCM240 Lecture 3 Measuring the Audience: 2015 Lecture Slides 10th August 2015, UOW, Semester 1, 2015.

Ellis-Christensen, T 2015, How do Networks Know How Many People are Watching a TV Program?, wiseGEEK, viewed 22/08/2015, <;.

Hurst, M Date Not Specified, What is Ethnography? – Studying Cultural Phenomena,, viewed 22/08/2015, <;.


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