Square Eyes

People are either often shocked or impressed to hear me when I say ‘I don’t really watch television’. It’s not that I don’t want to get ‘square eyes’ like my mum was so convinced I would as a child, or that I never absorb myself in a late night drama, I just never watch television with much intention. I often find myself in front of the screen when I’d least expect to, such as during my weekly family night, or at my boyfriend’s house where we mustn’t neglect our 6:30 fix of Home and Away (my most dreaded weekly appointment).

Television and I have a sort of, whirlwind romance. We often stumble upon each other’s paths, mingle for a little, and then move onto bigger and greater things. Perhaps I have commitment issues, but I’ve rarely found myself wholeheartedly dedicating myself to television, or any of the programs it has to offer. I’ll watch a couple of episodes, conclude that they are half-decent, pencil-in my evening date with How I Met Your Mother, then realise it’s far too late for me to jump on that bandwagon, and pull out the karaoke YouTube videos instead.

Point being, I don’t deem it fair that everybody else’s viewing should be affected by the information I do or do not offer to the corporations who analyse my every T.V associated move.

Audience measurement is the underlying issue, and although it would seem effective to measure the number of people watching particular television shows, deliberated into particular time-slots, a programs success shouldn’t be calculated with only these figures in mind.

Audience measurement is currently used to, quite simply, measure how many people are in an audience. These audiences include those who listen to the radio, watch television, or more recently, those who engage in online activity relating to a particular show. This data is used to evaluate not only the popularity of the content shown, but to explore the time and space factors relating to audience behaviour.

As evident in my own life, the time and space that I find myself in influence my own behaviour as an audience. These considerations make my media use a result of the behaviour of others around me. One of my weeknights becomes the night that I reluctantly watch Home and Away because of the spatial context I find myself in.

With this in mind, it doesn’t make sense to measure a show’s success based on the rating of people watching it. Just because I’m watching Home and Away, doesn’t mean I enjoy it, and similarly, just because I am not watching How I Met Your Mother doesn’t mean I do not enjoy it. Corporations also cannot determine my age, gender, ethnicity, religious views or interests based on a number I contribute to a rating. There seems to be too many assumptions made about the real life behaviour of media audiences, and not enough exploration into the actual substance of television programs. If shows were examined based on their quality and content, surely Home and Away would be dead by now.

References:

2014, Audience Measurement and Insights, GFK, viewed 16 August 2014, http://www.gfk.com/solutions/audience-measurement-and-insights/Pages/default.aspx

2014, How do television ratings work? How do they figure out how many people are watching a show?, How Things Work, viewed 16 August 2014, http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/question433.htm

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