Outlander Season 1, Inverness © Sony Pictures

Article published 21/11/2023

Television has come a long way since Scottish inventor John Logie Baird first demonstrated a working system in 1926. What began as a novelty item limited to just a handful of broadcasts per day has evolved into a ubiquitous medium that shapes our culture and connects the world.

On the 21 November, the United Nation recognises World Television Day which highlights the undeniable impact this technology has had on society, politics, and the flow of information globally.

The changing landscape of TV

The early pioneers of television, like Baird and later innovators who enabled the shift to electronic colour broadcasting, could hardly have imagined what their inventions would enable. From the first transatlantic TV transmission in 1928 to the launch of widely accessible cable networks and the rise of online streaming in the 21st century, television technology has rapidly advanced hand-in-hand with its cultural influence.

Today, it's hard to overstate the role of television in informing public opinion and driving social change. It has shaped political narratives and shed light on economic and social issues like the groundbreaking I Have a Dream speech, which brought the civil rights movement into homes across America, while influential hosts like Oprah Winfrey have challenged conventions and changed minds.

Influencing a global market

But television has always been more than just news and politics, in Scotland it has fundamentally reshaped entertainment and our economy. The TV series Outlander (2014 - present), which has been filmed in several areas of Scotland, has inspired many people across the world to visit our country and has provided a range of training and job opportunities to those working in the creative industry.

Scotland has also provided the backdrop for several TV series including Still Game, Shetland, Monarch of the Glen, Rebus, Vigil, The Nest and Taggart. Most recently it has been the filming destination for the BBC's bingeworthy reality TV show Traitors, which was filmed at the beautiful Ardross Castle.

A celebration of technology

The Edinburgh International Television Festival is held annually in August at the EICC (Edinburgh International Conference Centre) and offers more than 60 keynotes, debates, and masterclasses across the four-day event.

The independent festival, which was established in 1976, attracts more than 2,000 TV industry professionals from across the globe to learn, connect and discuss the future of the sector.

Discussing the impact of the sector, Jenni Steele, Film & Creative Industries Manager at VisitScotland said: "The film and tv industry is extremely valuable for Scotland - this sector generates in excess of £600 million for our economy. Producers and Directors have been captivated by Scotland's stunning scenery and other-worldly qualities for decades, with the country often doubling for far-flung locations thanks to its natural beauty and versatility. 

"And it's not just the production stage that's of value - we are also seeing a benefit from opportunities in screen tourism, and the hugely positive impact television shows and films can have, by inspiring viewers to visit Scotland and explore the locations they see on screen in real life."
As we reflect on World Television Day, it's clear this medium will continue evolving in the years ahead. But its unique power to instantly reach a global audience with information and entertainment ensures television will remain a vital force in our lives.