As the 19th century humorist Josh Billings noted, "The trouble with most people isn't their ignorance, it's in knowin' so many things that just ain't so." A case in point is the notion that the federal government, presumably via the Federal Communications Commission, is responsible for the fact that we have to watch Albuquerque TV. It just ain't so.
The FCC washed its hands of this more than 60 years ago and turned it over to A.C. Nielsen and the TV networks to solve. The Nielsen DMAs were set up by doing market research back in the 1950s. Where there was no broadcast television - as in La Plata county - arbitrary decisions were made based on the travel, communication and cultural realities of the time.
The Nielsen system works well in situations where consumers have a choice of what broadcast television they watch. In Delaware, where I lived for 27 years, it was theoretically possible to receive broadcast television from Philadelphia, Baltimore or New York City. The Nielsen surveys of consumers who could actually make a choice regularly puts Delaware in the Philadelphia DMA.
The Nielsen system has not changed even though most of us get our television via cable or satellite, not broadcast. These newer technologies have been forced by the networks to use the existing Nielsen DMA's to determine what service they provide where.
If you ask DirecTV for a waiver to get anything other than Albuquerque channels, your waiver request goes to the networks, not the FCC. The networks always turn them down because Nielsen's independent market research says we are in the Albuquerque DMA.
The Catch-22 here is that every time A.C. Nielsen does a survey in La Plata county, nobody says they watch the Denver channels because none of the nonbroadcast sources are allowed to provide them because of the DMA. It makes no sense to conduct a consumer choice survey among consumers who have no choice.
What we have here is big businesses telling us what they are going to give us rather than asking us what we want.
Gary D. Grantham, Hesperus