American Communication Research: The Remembered History

By Everette E. Dennis; Ellen Wartella | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Fashioning Audience Ratings--
From Radio to Cable

Hugh Malcolm Beville ( 1909-1988)*

Media rating has come a long way in 60 years, from the rudimentary beginning to today, and I have been privileged to play a role in that field from the start. I went to NBC in 1930 because I needed a job. I had gotten out of Syracuse University in January knowing that there was a recession on the way. The stock market had crashed in 1929, and the job market was drying up. I felt that because I had completed all my course requirements, I should get out and find a job before the June graduates hit the field. That is how I happened to wind up at NBC, which gave me a job as a statistician in their station relations department. Coincidentally, the month that I joined NBC was the month that the first field work was started for the first ratings service by Arch Crossley.

Before discussing details, I want to point out that effective mass communication requires two elements: First, it needs a viable feedback system to report how the output is being received; second, it needs a strong financial structure of some kind either from subscribers or advertisers or both. These two elements go hand in hand; without one you do not have the other.

I think it is clear that these fundamental issues in the mass media frequently seem to be overlooked by people who talk about mass communication. There is often a sense that anything that gets into the commercial field is somehow to be hated, and therefore the academicians tend to go the other way.

____________________
*
Former Executive Director of the Broadcast Rating Council (now the Electronic Media Research Council); Author, Audience Ratings: Radio, Television, Cable (1985).

-95-

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