Circuit Television (CCTV) is a television transmission system in
which live or prerecorded signals are sent over a closed loop to
a finite and predetermined group of receivers, either via coaxial
cable or as scrambled radio waves that are unscrambled at the point
takes numerous forms and performs functions ranging from image enhancement
for the partially-sighted to the transmission of pay-per-view sports
broadcasts. Although cable television is technically a form of CCTV
the term is generally used to designate TV systems with more specialized
applications than broadcast or cable television. These specialized
systems are not subject to regulation by the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC), though CCTV systems using scrambled radio waves
are subject to common carrier tarriffs and FCC conditions of service.
has many industrial and scientific applications, including electron
microscopy, medical imaging and robotics, but the term "closed circuit
TV" refers most often to security and surveillance camera systems.
Other common forms of CCTV include live on-site video displays for
special events (e.g. conventions, arena sports, rock concerts);
pay-per-view telecasts of sporting events such as championship boxing
matches, and "in-house" television channels in hospitals, airports,
racetracks, schools, malls, grocery stores, and municipal buildings.
conception of many of these uses of CCTV technology dates back to
the earliest years of television. In the 1930s and 1940s, writers
such as New York Times columnist Orrin Dunlap predicted that
closed circuit TV systems would enhance industry, education, science,
and commerce. Dunlap and other writers envisioned CCTV systems for
supervising factory workers and for visually coordinating production
in different areas of a factory, and anticipated CCTV systems replacing
pneumatic tubes in office communications. In the world of science,
closed circuit television was heralded as a way of viewing dangerous
experiments as they took place; in the sphere of education, CCTV
was seen a way of bringing lessons simultaneously to different groups
of students in a school or university.
of today's CCTV systems were first implemented in the postwar years.
For example, pay-per-view closed circuit sports broadcasts can be
traced back to a postwar Hollywood invention known as "theater television,"
a CCTV system used for viewing sports in movie theaters that became
a lucrative source of ancillary revenue for boxing promoters in
the fifties, sixties, and seventies. With the growth of cable television
and satellite delivery systems CCTV telecasts have become an integral
part of the business of sports today, not only in the boxing industry
but also in horseracing, baseball, and golf.
TV and video advertising in retail stores are other CCTV applications
that originate in the postwar period. The controversial Channel
One, a now defunct commercial CCTV channel for schools founded in
the 1980s, was only the latest of several CCTV experiments in education
dating back to the 1950s. Today's "on-site" media industry, which
places video advertising monitors in grocery stores, shopping malls,
and other retail sites, dates back to a series of tests involving
closed circuit advertising in department stores that took place
in the 1940s (See Gannon, 1945).
all of these applications of CCTV are fairly common, perhaps the
most pervasive use of CCTV is for surveillance. Security cameras
are now an ubiquitous feature of many institutions and places, from
the corrections facility to the convenience store. In prisons, CCTV
systems reduce the costs of staffing and operating observation towers
and make it possible to maintain a constant watch on all areas of
the facility. CCTV is also used as a means of monitoring performance
in the workplace; in 1992, according to an article in Personnel
Journal, there were ten million employees in the United States
whose work is monitored via electronic security systems. Retail
stores often install CCTV cameras as a safeguard against theft and
robbery, a practice which municipal authorities have adopted as
a way of curtailing crime in public housing and even on city streets.
In the United Kingdom, for example, police in several cities have
installed closed circuit cameras in busy public areas.
uses of CCTV technology are not neutral; indeed, they are often
a matter of some controversy. These controversies center on the
status of legal evidence acquired via closed circuit TV, and on
the Orwellian implications of constant perceived surveillance. Police
use of CCTV security cameras in Britain has led to charges of civil
liberties violations (Dawson,1994.) A 1978 survey on the topic of
CCTV in the workplace found that 77% of employers interviewed supported
the use of CCTV on the job. However, it also found that a majority
of employees felt that CCTV in the workplace constituted an unwarranted
intrusion, and favored the passage of laws prohibiting such surveillance.
Ironically, the ascendancy of more sophisticated electronic employee
surveillance technologies such as keystroke monitoring of information
workers has rendered CCTV somewhat obsolete as a visual management
addition to these civil liberties isssues, another controversy surrounding
security cameras concerns their effectiveness in crime prevention.
The purpose of CCTV surveillance is usually deterrence of, rather
than intervention in, criminal acts. Many security cameras go unmonitored
and are thus ineffective as a means of halting crimes in progress.
This fact was forcefully demonstrated by a highly publicized juvenile
murder case in England in 1992. After the discovery of the victim's
body and the apprehension of the perpetrators, police discovered
that the initial abduction had been recorded by a shopping center's
A closed circuit television viewing set-up
controversy surrounding CCTV is its use in the courtroom. In 1985,
the State of California passed a law allowing children to testify
via CCTV in child molestation cases. In response to a similar ruling,
the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that this method of testimony was
unconstitutional, as it violated a defendant's right to confront
this particular case reflects a concern that the camera can somehow
"lie" and that it is not equivalent to face-to-face interaction,
the latest trends in CCTV applications seem to rely precisely on
the equation of closed circuit vision with actual presence. New
technological developments which seem to base themselves upon this
premise include "Teleconferencing," an audiovisual communications
form designed to allow individuals in different places to interact
via CCTV hookups, and "Virtual Reality," an imaging system which
uses CCTV "goggles" in conjunction with advanced computer graphics
and input devices to create the illusion of a three-dimensional,
interactive envrironment for its viewer.
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