VIDEO: “Girls, ex-vets, older men are keeping the television field alive”

Toward the end of World War II, the Army Information Branch partnered with its counterparts in the Air Force and Navy to produce a series of instructional shorts that previewed various aspects of the post-war world for members of the armed forces. Tellingly, the first film in the series looked at television, and highlighted the TV-related job opportunities that awaited servicemen after they received their “permanent furloughs.” Tomorrow Television (1945) is exemplary of the corporate liberal futurism that so thoroughly shaped television’s cultural meanings (and, by extension, influenced key decisions about its technical standards, content, and regulation) in the period “before TV.” Within such forecasts, television both belonged to the future and was key to that future’s arrival. Or, more accurately, the immediate resumption of set manufacturing and commercial broadcasting were key to that future’s arrival. (As an aside, it bears noting that the television of the post-war future envisioned by the film operated in accordance with the pre-war technical standards. In the film, and in many other contexts during the mid-1940s, television figured as an icon of the technological marvels born of wartime research that consumers could look forward to enjoying after the war’s conclusion. And yet, technically speaking, by the time manufacturing of sets resumed in 1946, this standard was already obsolete…)

Check out Tomorrow Television. My personal highlights: the NBC and WNBT station idents that appear around the five minute mark; David Sarnoff’s horribly uncomfortable delivery at around 7:38.

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About fymaxwell
Max Dawson is a Los Angeles-based media consultant and professor.

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