As did television-as both “technology and cultural form” (Williams 1974)—television historiography has also changed signifi cantly over the last decades. This chapter aims at reconstructing fi ve phases of television historiography, based on three main criteria of comparison: (a) the actors and motivations of those doing television history; (b) the sources they did or could use; (c) the questions and concepts that framed their interpretations. The combination of a chronological perspective (phase model) with the tripartite analytical framework presented above is deliberately based on the thought to historicize both the medium of television (its changing dispositifs) and to contextualize television historiography (the changing popular or scholarly interpretations of what television was or meant). This radical historicization of both the means and meanings of television has the double aim of introducing the readers of this book to the long and complex history of television and to the institutional and disciplinary contexts in which television has been studied. On the one hand, historical changes in the legal, economic, political, or cultural environments within which television emerged and developed shaped new questions and debates about television’s past and future. On the other hand, new methodological approaches to and theories of television have highlighted and-simultaneously-neglected specifi c dimensions of the televisual dispositif, depending of the different waves of intellectual fashions within academia. As the history of television is characterized by a pre-history (1870s-1940s) that is more or less exactly as long-and certainly not less fascinating-as the history of television as a mass medium (1950s-now), the phase model I propose wants to bridge the longue durée of the phenomenon of television along the following phases:

While this model roughly suggests a chronological structure, it asks for a certain “interpretative fl exibility” (Bijker 1995) as the different phases may overlap and/or occur at different times at different places.