Since 1996, the UN has designated today, November 21 as World Television Day, but in 2013 how appropriate is it to be a commemorating a box? Arguably television has escaped the box, but then what makes it TV, and does it still have value?

In an age of boundless viewer choice in the form of digital video – watched on computers and phones, as well as on-demand TV, the end of scheduled broadcasting seems nigh. But we’ve been here before… the “end” of television as we know it was pronounced with the arrival of videos, DVDs, programme recorders – and the internet.

The traditional notion of TV as specific content watched at an exact time by people in a precise location is not so much breaking down as changing. In the UK last year nearly 90 per cent of TV viewing occurred at the time of broadcast. Video on demand and online video viewership is growing in popularity but it seems many of us just want to slump in front of TV that is programmed for us by broadcasters. Meanwhile in India, where internet penetration is still relatively low, even among the urban middle class 91 per cent cite TV as their favourite entertainment medium.

Global events such as the Olympics and the World Cup continue to demonstrate the worldwide appetite for shared moments and TV still provides a unique shared media space where people can come together locally, regionally, nationally and globally to share both triumph and tragedy. And it’s not all about news, sport and entertainment, at its best television brings us real insight into the world and how it works.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said on World TV Day: “Television helps bring the world to people’s lives and living rooms. Through quality programming, television sheds light on global issues and opens windows of understanding on the struggles and hopes of communities and families everywhere.  The United Nations looks forward to continuing our work with broadcasters to help inform, educate and build a better world.”

At a time where the choice of viewing content is expanding exponentially, the role of Public Service Broadcasters as leaders in providing high quality content, insight and understanding about the rest of the world to audiences could not be needed more.  World TV Day provides an opportunity for public broadcasters to refocus on the content – however and wherever it’s watched.

What will you watch today?

Five big global moments in TV

(estimated worldwide audiences)

Eurovision Song Contest, 2013 (170 million)
The first moonwalk, 1969 (530 million)
Usain Bolt’s 100m final at the 2012 Olympics (2 billion)
The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, 1981 (750 million)
Live Aid, 1985 (1.5 billion)

Also see the CBA/WorldView report:

New world view – Why PSBs have a critical role to play in providing citizens with reliable and engaging international coverage

Image: A crowd in a Beijing park watching the 2008 Olympics. Ian Teh/Panos