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TV Jargon (TV Industry Terminology)

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Rating Services - Nothing is free in this world, not even television (though it seems to be). With the exception of cable services or PBS stations which rely on cash contributions or charges to finance programming, other network television is provided courtesy of money supplied by advertisers who pay a premium to local/national network stations to have their products hawked via the format known as a "commercial" (an advertisement broadcast on radio or television). To evaluate who is watching what programs and thus the sponsor's commercials, marketing measurement agencies have come into existence (first on radio) to determine the number of audience members viewing any program at any one time. With this knowledge, the television networks/local stations can calculate what to charge advertisers. The more viewers a particular program/channel commands, the higher prices can be charged to those companies or persons seeking air time to sell their wares. In the 1950s an audience rating system called "Trendex" made random phone calls to 1,000 people in some fifteen cities to solicit opinions on what the audience was watching. See also "Arbitron Rating Service", "A.C. Nielsen Rating Service" and "JICTAR"

Residuals - Extra fees paid to performers for reruns of filmed or taped materials, as on television. When television began, the airwaves were filled with re-edited movie shorts and westerns. The stars of those vehicles received no compensation (residuals) for their repeated showing. Veteran movie actor/singer/western star, Gene Autry went to court with the contention that he should get a share of the profits for television's use of his films. He lost his case. Other early entertainers such as Laurel & Hardy, The Little Rascals, Charlie Chaplin and The Three Stooges found their way into million of homes in the early 1950s but never received any compensation from the television industry. Stan Laurel remarked in a 1954 TV Guide interview, "We made all the films on salary, and everybody figured the life of a movie was five years. It's a little disturbing to see ourselves on TV now. We're being used to sell products we never ever heard of, and someone else is making all the money." One actor who was farsighted enough to anticipate the value of reruns was Audrey Meadows who starred as Alice Kramden on THE HONEYMOONERS. Her contract included residual payments for reruns which over the years turned out to be a nice chunk of change.

Scrambled Signal - When the Federal Communications Commission ruled in 1984 that owners of satellite dishes could freely receive programming broadcast to the Earth from orbiting satellites, without paying for the transmissions, cable providers like HBO and SHOWTIME began to scramble the electronic patterns of their broadcast signals so that only those people with authorized descrambling devices could have access to their services. Anyone trying to descramble signal without proper authority would be in violation of the Federal Communication Act of 1984 which prohibits such actions. HBO was the first service to scramble their signal on January 15, 1986.

Sign-offs - The act of ending each broadcast day with a statement that acknowledges the identity of a TV or radio station. Per the Federal Communications Commission, this sign-off procedure is require by law. The sign-off generally begins with the statement like "This ends this station's broadcast day..." and follows with a quick summary of the station's name, address and a suggestion that all viewers send their comments of concern or praise to the attention of the station's management. Before fading to static or a test-pattern, station's traditionally end the sign-off with a taped performance of the national anthem.

Sky Television - A new satellite based television service launched in Britain on February, 1989 by media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. The system was designed to frustrate would be signal thieves (video pirates) by changing its scrambling method every three months, thus preventing anyone from figuring out the code and getting decoders on the underground market before codes are changed again. Legitimate black box decoders will "unlock" the sky signals with a decoder activated by a so-called smart card, a credit card-size slab of plastic with a microchip buried inside. Subscribers would get a new card every three months. Viewers who don't pay for a new card are "out." The encryption scheme was developed by Adi Shamir, a professor at Israel's Weirmann Institute of Science who was a founder of News Datacom Research located in Jerusalem.

Soap Operas - Soap operas are radio or TV serials with stock domestic situations that emphasize interpersonal relationship with themes of sex, greed, love and hate as major elements in the scripts. Irna Philips, a young Dayton, Ohio school teacher created the nation's first daytime radio opera PAINTED DREAMS broadcast in 1930 on WGN, a local TV station owned by the Chicago Tribune. In general, a soap opera has these special characteristics: 1) They are seen in the daytime; 2) Programs are serialized; 3) Programs are sponsored by a soap manufacturer, hence their name "Soaps"; 4) They are set in a fictional Midwest town; and 5) Two families are the focus of the program, usually one rich and one poor/middle class. Recently, the settings have moved from rural towns to include such major cities as New York, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Washington, D.C and Houston. And programs like DALLAS, DYNASTY, FALCONCREST, KNOTS LANDING, SISTERS, THIRTYSOMETHING have taken the daytime time soap opera format into the prime time hours with great success. The Videotape verses film format also distinguishes the look of the daytime from the nighttime soaps. Over the years, some of the most popular and recurring plots have been amnesia, unjustly convicted of a crime, threat of traumatic surgery, married but spouse loves someone else, blackmail, family secret (illegitimate child), mobsters move in to take over, and someone tries to destroy a marriage. The first soap opera on television was broadcast during the summer of 1946 on WRGB, a General Electric Station in Schenectady, New York. Called WAR BRIDE, this 13-part series was the story of a returning G.I. and his new wife. Soon to follow was the daytime drama FARAWAY HILL (the first network soap opera) aired on the Dumont network in 1946. Other sources claimed that A WOMAN TOO REMEMBER broadcast from Dumont's New York studios located in Wanamaker's Department Store in 1947 was the first real television soap. And still other sources claim that THESE ARE MY CHILDREN by Irna Phillips telecast (from Chicago) Monday-Friday from 5:00-5:15 P.M. on NBC and THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS on CBS network (1950) were the first bona fide network soaps. Soaps Operas first started over 50 years ago on radio. The programs were sponsored by a soap manufacturer and advertised products geared towards the female listening audience who escaped the drudgery of cooking, washboards and the intolerable family lives by listening to such soap favorites as MA PERKINS, a radio serial program sponsored by Oxydol soap powder and aired nationally. It's popularity lead other soap brands to sponsor numerous new soap operas. Some major sponsors of "Soaps" were Proctor & Gamble, Borden, Lever Brothers, Colgate-Palmolive, Jergens, General Mills, and General Foods.

Soundies - The ancestors of the modern music videos. Between 1941-47 over 2000 primitive 3-minute films called "Soundies" were manufactured and placed into specially designed projectors known as Panorams that displayed filmed musical numbers onto a small plastic screen mounted atop the jukebox. For the price of a nickel, patrons could see such 1940s entertainers as Duke Ellington, Cabe Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Doris Day (singing with the Les Brown Orchestra), Dorothy Dandrige (dressed in a cowgirl outfit singing the "Cow Cow Boogie") and even Alan Ladd (before his film days) singing with Rio Rita and her All-Girl Orchestra. Soundies were introduced in 1940 by Mills Novelty Company of Chicago but by the end of the Second World War, the 4000 jukeboxes in operation around the country soon fell out of fashion.

Specials See "Spectaculars"

Spectacular - In the early days of black & white television, the programs which were considered by today's standards, a "special" were called a "spectacular" (they stopped calling them "spectaculars" in 1957). No matter what you call them, they still cost a bundle of money to produce (often broadcast in color). The word "spectacular" was credited to NBC president Sylvester L. "Pat" Weaver (the father of Sigourny Weaver). The first NBC spectacular was Satins and Spurs (9/12/54) starring Betty Hutton about a rodeo queen who falls in love with a magazine reporter (Kevin McCarthy). One of the most remembered spectaculars was the TV adaptation of the Broadway play Peter Pan starring Mary Martin that first aired on the NBC Network on March 7, 1955. The following is a list of some other memorable spectaculars and specials: The Fortieth Anniversary Show (CBS and NBC) June 15, 1953, featuring a duet with Mary Martin and Ethel Merman; The Ernie Kovacs Show (NBC) January 19, 1957, a half hour comedy special without words; Rock 'n' Roll Show (ABC) May 4 & 11, 1957, the first prime time network special devoted to rock music; An Evening with Fred Astaire (NBC) October 17th, 1958, Fred Astaire's first variety special with Barrie Chase; Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall (CBS) June 11, 1962, a music and comedy special with Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett; Around the Beatles (ABC) November 15, 1964, a musical special taped in London with the "Fab Four"; My Name is Barbra (CBS) April 28, 1965, Barbra Streisand's first TV special (and her sequel one-woman show Color Me Barbra on March 30, 1966); Jack and the Beanstalk (NBC) February 26, 1967, the first TV special (Hosted by Gene Kelly) to combine live action with animation; Elvis (NBC) December 3, 1968, Elvis Presley's triumphant return to TV; From Here to the Seventies (NBC) October 7, 1969, a two-and-a-half-hour news special hosted by Paul Newman; Bill Cosby Talks with Children About Drugs (NBC) March 27, 1971, a current awareness special on drug abuse; Duke Ellington...We Love You Madly (CBS) February 11, 1973, an all-star tribute to musician Duke Ellington; Baryshnikov on Broadway (ABC) April 24, 1980, a dance fantasy with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Liza Minnelli; Big Bird in China (NBC) May 29, 1983, a children's variety special with PBS's muppet Big Bird; AIDS: Changing the Rules (PBS) November 6, 1987, an informational special hosted by Ron Reagan, Ruben Blades and Beverly Johnson; Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration (ABC) February 4, 1990, a tribute to entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr.; and Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (HBO) September 2, 1995, an all-star live six-hour rock concert from Cleveland. TRIVIA NOTE: Jack Benny once said "To me a 'special' is when coffee is marked down from 89 cents to 54 cents a pound."

Split-Screen - Two images each from different sources paired together electronically onto one screen. On June 23, 1949, the first reported instance of a two-way split screen network broadcast occurred on THE HOWDY DOODY SHOW. Puppet character Howdy Doody and his clown friend Clarabell standing in front of TV cameras in Chicago shared the split-image screen with the program host Buffalo Bob Smith who was standing in New York City studios. The split-screen image technique was actually demonstrated by the National Broadcasting Company at the Television Broadcasters Association Clinic held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City on December 8, 1948. It featured a split-screen image of John Cameron Swayze, in New York City interviewing Representative Karl Earl Mundt of South Dakota who was in Washington, D.C. In November 1951 commentator/broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow began a new television program SEE IT NOW using the new coast-to-coast coaxial cable to simultaneously telecast pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge for the viewers at home. Murrow simply said "We are impressed." This technique is used extensively in modern television. The late night ABC news program NIGHTLINE with Ted Koppel frequently uses the split-screen when conducting interviews with two or more person located on various parts of the globe.

Stanton-Lazarfield Program Analyzer - System used by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) to pre-test the appeal of a new program with a randomly selected studio audience. Known also as "Little Annie," the SLPA gathers groups of people in both Los Angeles and New York and invites them to screen filmed materials. They are escorted to a seat equipped with knobs. If they enjoy what they see, they are instructed to press the knob on the right hand of their chair; if displeased they press the left arm of their chair. See also "Rating Services."

Sweeps - Period of the year used by the television industry to determine how much they can charge advertisers for commercial air time. The sweeps periods occur four times a year for a period of four-week each from October-November, February-March, April-May, and a fourth mid-summer sweeps. The stations which get the highest ratings can command the highest prices. A difference in just one point can be worth millions of dollars. (one point equals 874,000 TV households) Frequently during these sweep periods, the programming on television gets very provocative with topics dealing heavily with sex, or violence. Prostitutes, male strippers, married ex-nuns, Nazi's or in-depth studies into cult religious groups become popular teaser topics to attract large audiences. A.C. Nielsen and Arbitron are the two major rating services who evaluate the sweeps periods.

Syndication - The Federal Communications Commission defines syndication as "any program sold, licensed, distributed, or offered to television stations in more than one market within the United States for non-interconnected television broadcast exhibition, but not including live presentations." PUBLIC PROSECUTOR/SYN/1947 produced by Jerry Fairbanks Productions was the first syndicated television program. Starring John Howard, the show was a strange blend of both the detective and game show genres. A first-run syndicated program is one that has not yet been seen on network television. The goal of many television producers is to have a successful run with a TV program so that they can then turn around after the series is over and syndicate the property to markets around the country. This has been done successfully with such programs such as CHEERS, FRIENDS, I LOVE LUCY, M*A*S*H, SEINFELD and the successful sci-fi series STAR TREK.

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