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TV or not TV? That's the Nielsen questionnaire

TV or not TV? That's the Nielsen questionnaire mike_briotta_web.jpg
Mike Briotta
The summer solstice in June signals the beginning of warm-weather fun throughout New England. It should be a clarion call to get outside and soak up the rays of sunshine. So it was with no small irony that the Briotta household recently received two solicitations from television ratings giant Nielsen, hoping to track our indoor TV-watching habits. The first was a small, strange envelope telling us that Nielsen was interested in monitoring our TV time. Included were two, crisp one-dollar bills. Was this a tiny bribe? Of course, we ignored the first package. A couple weeks later came the follow-up: A 13-question survey probing deeper into our racial backgrounds, age demographic and, of course, viewing preferences. This time, the mailer included some pamphlets saying "Welcome! Your home was specially selected!" and stating that, "You will be representing your community." Presumptive language aside, the package included something even more psychologically significant: five crisp one-dollar bills. Maybe five singles hold more sway over impulsive people than simply sending a humble five-dollar bill. A friend of mine who works for Nielsen in Connecticut (and insists he had nothing to do with our household being selected) filled usin a bit more on the devilish details. Apparently, agreeing to this deal no longer just allows Nielsen to monitor your TV viewing. A team of "technicians" would come to our home and solder computer chips to all the televisions in our house, plus any video games systems we have, and also monitor what videos we watch on YouTube. Having heard the phrase "Big Brother" before (and not just the CBS reality show by the same name), I was already somewhat skeptical. Then my friend told me the kicker: If these "technicians" were to damage a TV in our home during the installation of their equipment, Nielsen would buy us a new one. So let's see, a bunch of strangers come into our home, do what they please, and maybe we'll get a new TV afterward? Sounds like a break-in we once had — just without having to file so much insurance paperwork. To top it all off, our household doesn't currently have cable TV. We don't watch so-called "reality" shows. The last television series I watched in earnest was through Netflix, called BBC's "Top Gear." Sadly, that tidbit of information is not going to keep "The Mentalist" or "Wipeout" off American airwaves this summer. I really don't think Nielsen would have much use for our viewing preferences anyway. And we certainly have no use for them. Thanks for the seven bucks, though. I'll be sure to spend it wisely. PRIME is all about getting out and doing things this month, and I truly believe that hearing live music, watching a play or an offbeat film, or experiencing artwork are all infinitely more rewarding ways to spend one's time than watching TV. In the spirit of summertime exploration away from " the tube" please check out our comprehensive coverage of events in the Berkshires, starting on page 5. Our feature story has dozens of ideas for daytrips. Continuing with the Berkshires theme, we note the start of the season at Jacob's Pillow in our Dining & Entertainment section on page 14. Attend just one of these myriad summer events, and you may want to turn off your TV — for good. Until next time, we hope you enjoy the warmth of the season and continue reading PRIME magazine. Sincerely, Mike Briotta, PRIME Editor mikeb@thereminder.com Bookmark and Share