Television programs may be transmitted either "live" or from a recording. The principle means of recording television programs for future use is videotape recording. Videotape recording is similar to conventional tape recording (see tape recorder) except that, because of the wide frequency range—4.2 megahertz (MHz)—occupied by a video signal, the effective speed at which the tape passes the head is kept very high. The sound is recorded along with the video signal on the same tape.
When a television program is broadcast, the varying electrical signals are then amplified and used to modulate a carrier wave (see modulation); the modulated carrier is usually fed to an antenna, where it is converted to electromagnetic waves and broadcast over a large region. The waves are sensed by antennas connected to television receivers. The range of waves suitable for radio and television transmission is divided into channels, which are assigned to broadcast companies or services. In the United States the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has assigned 12 television channels between 54 and 216 MHz in the very-high-frequency (VHF) range and 56 channels between 470 and 806 MHz in the ultra-high-frequency (UHF) range (see radio frequency).
Most television viewers in the United States no longer receive signals by using antennas; instead, they receive programming via cable television. Cable delivery of television started as a way to improve reception. A single, well-placed community antenna received the broadcast signals and distributed them over coaxial or fiber-optic cables to areas that otherwise would not be able to receive them. Today, cable television is popular because of the wide variety of programming it can deliver. Many systems now provide more than 100 channels of programming. Typically, a cable television company receives signals relayed from a communications satellite and sends those signals to its subscribers. The first transatlantic television broadcast was accomplished by such a satellite, called Telstar, on July 10, 1962. Some television viewers use small satellite dishes to receive signals directly from satellites. Most satellite-delivered signals are scrambled and require a special decoder to receive them clearly.
See also broadcasting.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.