Thursday, May 5, 2011

An actual quick one on broadcast TV

My last post on the topic went a bit longer than I had planned so I'll keep this one brief.

From the New York Times:
The Nielsen Company, which takes TV set ownership into account when it produces ratings, will tell television networks and advertisers on Tuesday that 96.7 percent of American households now own sets, down from 98.9 percent previously.

There are two reasons for the decline, according to Nielsen. One is poverty: some low-income households no longer own TV sets, most likely because they cannot afford new digital sets and antennas.
Of course, you don't need 'new digital sets and antennas.' You need a forty dollar converter box (thirty if you shop around. Closer to twenty used). Any antenna that's UHF compatible will work (in other words, any antenna). I've used one from the 99 cents store -- worked fine.

Here are some more details:
Nielsen’s research into these newly TV-less households indicates that they generally have incomes under $20,000. “They are people at the bottom of the economic spectrum for whom, if the TV breaks, if the antenna blows off the roof, they have to think long and hard about what to do,” Ms. McDonough said. Most of these households do not have Internet access either. Many live in rural areas.*

I'm sure that some of these people can't afford a thirty dollar converter or a thrift-store TV, but there are certainly others who went without because they were misinformed about the costs. misinformed in part because reporters increasingly feel like it's their job to protect consumption rather than consumers.

* Having grown up in the Ozarks and taught in the Mississippi Delta, I can tell you from experience that rural areas face extraordinary challenges that are generally ignored if not openly mocked. For some of these people, the switch to digital really did end their access to free TV, greatly compounding problems with isolation. I'd like to respond to this with a major push to get high speed internet access to rural areas but that's a topic for another column.

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