The United Nations marked World Television Day on 21 November, an annual observance that recognizes the role of the medium as a major source of information, education and entertainment. The International Telecommunication Union first released technical standards to television 70 years ago and these continue to enhance the television viewing experience in terms of audiovisual quality. The ITU is now allocating further spectrum to 5G services, which could support further developments in audiovisual communications.

Television continues to be the single largest source of video consumption and is a major source of information, education and entertainment. The number of households with television sets around the world continues to rise and is expected to reach 1.74 billion by 2023.

“Television plays a crucial role in connecting the world to information and knowledge while providing an unsurpassed channel for mass entertainment,” said Houlin Zhao, the secretary-general of the ITU. “World TV Day brings attention to ITU’s exemplary work in producing the standards that are driving future trends in broadcasting and Internet services that will bring an increasingly immersive experience to viewers around the world.”

Mario Maniewicz is the director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. “More than ever, television today provides information, news and entertainment to people wherever they may be,” he said. “World TV Day focuses on the work of ITU over the last 70 years in developing new standards and systems for broadcasting, bringing them in line with the latest cutting edge technologies designed to make high quality television coverage available in affordable ways to people in the remotest areas of the world.”

The ITU is the United Nations agency for information and communications. It was founded more than 150 years ago and initially promoted cooperation among international telegraph networks.

The agency first released technical standards for television in 1949. Since then, it has developed globally harmonized norms and systems that have enhanced the television viewing experience, including the switch to digital television broadcasting and high definition services, and the standardisation of video compression systems. The ITU continues to play a role in the standardisation of ultra-high-definition television and high dynamic range, bringing increased realism to images.

The recently concluded ITU World Radiocommunication Assembly called for a roadmap on broadcasting concerning audio visual quality assessment and accessibility, audio and video coding, integrated broadcast-broadband, multimedia, and other emerging technologies and applications. The assembly also sought to promote accessibility for persons with disabilities and specific needs.

This month, the ITU has been leading discussions on how the roll out of 5G services could lead to greater media content delivery using both broadcasting and non-broadcasting platforms.

The WRC-19 World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 identified more than 17 GHz of radio spectrum for use by 5G services, known as IMT-2020 in ITU terms, of which 14.75 GHz has been harmonized worldwide.

“I think the future of television is essentially about cooperative technologies”, said David Wood of the European Broadcasting Union, an ITU partner.

World Television Day was recognised in 1996 at the United Nations General Assembly, following the first World Television Forum, where leading media figures met under the auspices of the United Nations to discuss the growing significance of television.

World Television Day is not so much a celebration of the tool, but rather the philosophy which it represents. Television represents a symbol for communication and globalization in the contemporary world.