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The Nielsens are coming!

Moseyin’ Along

November 1, 2011
By Joyce Schenk, COLUMNIST
Last week’s mail brought a card informing us that the well-known Nielsen TV Ratings firm has chosen us to participate in their upcoming viewing survey.

For years, I’ve wondered how the Neilsens gathered their information. I often questioned why a TV show I thought was less than entertaining or of questionable quality had managed to attract a huge percentage of the viewing public. But whether I’ve agreed or disagreed with their findings, the ratings giant claims it has kept its finger on the pulse of public preferences for decades, providing clients with reliable information about what we, the viewing public, are watching. discussing and, ultimately, buying.

So next week, our family’s viewing activities will be included in the Nielsen sampling. They may find our viewing habits a bit different from the crowd.

I was in my late teens when we entered the television age. Mom brought home our first set, a round-screen Raytheon. It was given a place of honor, atop our beloved floor model radio in the living room.

At first, television was such a novelty we even enjoyed the test patterns. But, over time we learned to adjust the ever-present rabbit ears and watch grainy black and white shows including Milton Berle, Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows and Playhouse 90.

That was over 60 years ago, a time when less than 10 percent of U. S. households even owned a television set.

These days, according to a recent report, the average American home has more TVs than people.

The same report went on to say that we, as a nation, are watching more than five hours of television a day. And today’s kids — most of whom have TVs in their bedrooms — watch over 32 hours a week.

But televisions are no longer limited to our homes. Wherever we go — the beauty shop, the airport, the hospital emergency room, the waiting room of every doctor, dentist and vet — television is there. It seems impossible to escape. Fortunately, most of the stuff we’re forced to watch outside the home is of the stale news variety, played over and over again. The theory, apparently, is that no one would want to miss the latest bulletin on Lindsey Lohan’s troubles or the ever-escalating chaos among the Republican candidates.

Although there’s no control over the content of the TVs we see away from home, our family has in-house viewing guidelines we set long ago, when our children were small. These common sense concepts have helped sort out many of the television offerings that knock at the door of our in-home TV screens.

We avoid programs that depict unnecessary violence, are disrespectful, rely on insults as the basis of humor or portray flagrant sexuality.

After all, just as our front door marks the entryway for outsiders who would come into our home, so the television screens have the power to bring the world inside. We would never knowingly invite anyone in who displayed the violence, disrespect or sexual insensitivity so often and graphically shown on TV. So, for the same reasons, we exclude such “visitors” who would enter via our television sets.

With such limits in place, we usually confine ourselves to such programs as The Today Show, 60 Minutes and re-runs of such classics as MASH, Andy Griffith and the Dick Van Dyke Show. The Neilsens may not be ready to hear about our kind of viewing.


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