Press-Republican

Columns

April 6, 2014

The true power of the people

My Uncle Ben once told me, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and now I finally understand what he meant.

With the power of my universal remote control, I will be able to determine not just what television programs I can watch, but which programs all of you can watch.

This week I was contacted by the fine folks of the Nielsen Company and asked if my family would be one of their families. For one full week, everything I watch on television will be logged and used to determine the fabled Nielsen TV ratings.

These ratings, of course, will determine which shows will be canceled, which will be renewed, and which networks will get millions in advertising dollars.

Great power ...

Of course there is an extensive screening process to being randomly selected by Nielsen. You have to have a valid U.S. address. You have to own a television. You absolutely cannot own or operate a broadcasting corporation of any type. The grueling two-minute phone interview seemed like the Spanish Inquisition.

At least agreeing to help the Nielsens is not a nonprofit enterprise. Upon my acceptance, I would be sent five crisp, American dollar bills.

I had always imagined that when the Nielsens select a ratings family, they send a squad of technicians into the home and attach some kind of magical black box to all of the family’s televisions; a box that will automatically record every click of the remote, every second of viewing.

Unfortunately, that technology is apparently saved for families in the nation’s 25 largest markets, and Plattsburgh falls just shy.

The rest of us merely get journals in which we are to write everything that we watch over the course of seven days. Granted, it’s a barbaric form of measurement — if we can operate a television, we can probably operate, say, a cellphone app — but we are still a Nielsen family, and our votes will be counted just like those from the magic black box families.

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