Audience Ratings: Radio, Television, and Cable

By Hugh Malcolm Beville Jr. | Go to book overview
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Time magazine in an editorial comment 27 following a deep scrutiny of the jury system in 1982, wrote: "TIME observes that trial by jury realizes an essential democratic ideal; that a citizen's security is best protected not by any institutional or intellectual elite, but by the common sense of his fellow citizens . . ." In a meaningful way, ratings are also an expression of democracy in action--viewers and listeners have free choice of a wide variety of free entertainment, news, and information. No other medium anywhere in the world can match the variety and quality of the total output of the programs that weather our ratings system to reach the American public.

The initial break in the tradition that the advertiser owned the time period came in 1954, when NBC forced the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, sponsor of the "Firestone Hour," a semiclassical music program on NBC at 8:30 P.M. Monday evenings since September 1949, to relinquish its time period. The program's ratings were always abysmally low, and as TV competition heated up NBC decided that Firestone must move to a new time period on Sunday afternoon. Sylvester (Pat) Weaver, president of NBC Television, took the proposal (with ratings analyses) to the Firestone family in Akron because Mrs. Harvey Firestone, widow of the founder, had a personal interest in the program. The NBC move was rejected (one Firestone family member remarked that "everyone is playing polo on Sunday afternoon"), and Firestone moved to ABC, where it occupied its 8:30 Monday time period for three years.
David Halberstam, The Powers That Be ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1979), p. 39.
Based on computer-based sales figures from 160 bookstores in every region of the U.S.
Since January 1976 daily newspapers have suspended operations in Chicago, Philadelphia (2), Boston, Washington, Cleveland (2), Buffalo, Hartford (2), Oklahoma City, and Memphis. Scores of newspapers have disappeared through suspension and mergers in other cities.
The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 1982, p. 1.
There's an old saying in Washington: "Until you can count the problem you can't solve it."
Joel Swerdlow, "The Ratings Game," Washington Journalism Review, Washington, D.C., October 1979. The odd part about this comment is that neither Swerdlow nor any of the scores of other professional critics of ratings ever seem to discuss their concerns with advertisers.
Television advertising expenditures for 1983 as estimated by the Television Bureau of Advertising, based on data from B roadcast Advertiser Reports.


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