Of all the notable events and special days that the United Nations marks, it may surprise you to learn they have a day dedicated to the world’s most popular form of entertainment and information. Falling on the 21st November every year, World Television Day celebrates the advent and importance of what some call “The Idiot Box”. Celebrated by most, reviled by a few who feel that it takes away from our creativity, its contribution to human culture cannot be denied.
A Brief History of Television
The word “television” is a derivative of the Greek words tele (far) and visio (sight). Television is about being farsighted, which in many ways it is.
Moving pictures have mesmerised people for over a century; the first cinemas opened in the late 19th century in some of the most important cities across the world. However, the television for the home didn’t exist at this time and it would have been prohibitively expensive if anyone could fit the contents of an early cinema in their home.
The first true television arrived in the 1920s when amplification made it possible to create actual moving images rather than the rapid projection of moving stills. It took until 1925 for John Logie Baird to create a working prototype and display his invention publicly. The image was of a poor quality and it did not have sufficient contrast to display human faces. That breakthrough came in 1926 which is when most people believe that television was truly born.
Television has changed considerably in that time. Today we have streaming services tied to the internet and we can all create our own video material.
Why Do We Need a World Television Day?
In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly agreed that 21st November every year should be World Television Day. We all recognise the importance of television as a medium of entertainment, but the reason we mark the day is the impact of television in highlighting global conflict, economic and social issues, and major disasters. It’s nearly always the first and most important way in which we as individuals connect with problems in the world. It’s far less about celebrating the television, but rather the meaning behind it and the vital function it fulfils in information distribution.
All About UN Video
Today, television is fundamental to the United Nations work with humanitarian crises. The organisation now has a dedicated area for producing moving images to disseminate to news agencies and for making all of us aware of the problems going on in the world today. As well as producing documentaries to tell the human stories of their interventions.
UN video producers visit problem areas:
- Reporting on peacekeeping missions of which there is constant need for assistance during conflicts
- Interventions during political crises and natural disasters
- They work hard to bring all of us daily updates for UN operations worldwide – direct to our televisions.
UN Video records material in the six official UN languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Some of their most important work has also highlighted people with disabilities (for which they won an Oscar in the short documentary category). They regularly produce documentary material concerning UN peacekeeping efforts and on climate change too.
There is absolutely no doubt that television has changed the way we communicate and absorb information and it will continue to be the predominant method of doing so.