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August, 2000, Vol. 123, No. 8
Job growth in television: cable versus broadcast, 1958-99Dominic Toto
Broadcast television made its public debut at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, dramatically changing the way people live, work, and spend their free time.1 A decade later, community antenna television, an early form of cable television, spread broadcast signals over rural Pennsylvania and Oregon.2 Currently, nearly all homes in the United States with televisions have access to some form of cable television, with approximately two-thirds of U.S. households subscribing to a local cable service.3
For more than 40 years, employment in all areas of television program delivery has risen substantially. During the first half of this period, radio and television broadcasting accounted for most of the job gains, while during the second half, more of the growth occurred in cable and other pay television services. Throughout the period, changing legislation has greatly affected the way video service providers conduct their business, contributing to the trend toward more rapid growth in cable services. In addition to key regulatory and policy changes, growing consumer demand for television entertainment and related technological innovations have helped boost employment levels in all video-providing industries.
This article compares the employment history of cable and other pay television services with that of radio and television broadcasting; it also reviews some of the more significant regulatory and economic changes that have occurred over the period. The chronology is broken into three phases: The first phase (1958–72) covers the early years up to when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced new rules regarding cable television in March 1972.4 The second phase (1972–84) covers the subsequent period of rapid employment growth in the television industry up to when Congress enacted the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984. The third phase—during which employment growth slowed down considerably and additional regulatory and economic changes took place, covers the period from 1984 to 1999.5 The first part of the analysis focuses on employment during the study period, and the second half looks at some of the technological changes that have shaped the industry since its inception.
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1 Robert L. Hilliard and Michael C. Keith, The Broadcast Century: A Biography of American Broadcasting (Stoneham, MA, Butterworth-Heinemann, 1992), p. 88.
2 Hilliard and Keith, The Broadcast Century, p. 150.
3 Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in Markets for the Delivery of Video Programming: Sixth Annual Report, FCC 99–418 (Federal Communications Commission, January 2000), appendix B, table B-1.
4 See Federal Communications Commission Fact Sheet: Cable Television Information Bulletin, June 2000, on the Internet at http://www.fcc.gov/csb/facts/csgen.html (visited July 2000), pp. 1–2.
5Federal Communications Commission Fact Sheet: Cable Television, p. 2.
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