NC Media Watch

A quest for reason and accuracy in letters to the editor, guest editorials and other issues of interest to the citizens of Western Nevada County.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Depends on how you ask the question

Comcast: Customers won't pay more for NCTV, Britt Retherford,, 1 April 2005
Armed with a recent telephone survey, Nevada County's main cable TV provider says it now has data that show customers don't want to pay more to support a local public-access station.

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The survey Comcast is using was conducted by a private consulting firm from Jan. 25 to Feb. 3 and included 303 cable customers. While Comcast did not reveal the way questions were phrased, results said that 80 percent of respondents weren't interested in paying more money to finance facilities and production equipment for a public access station.

About 85 percent also indicated that they did not want their cable company to add more public-access channels.

These results contradict those from another survey that was conducted in October 2003, when Foothill Community Access Television was western Nevada County's public-access station. This survey was done for FCAT by the consulting firm the Buske Group in preparation for the fee negotiations with Comcast.

Four hundred people were interviewed by phone - 200 of them Comcast subscribers.

Of those, 75 percent said it was "important" or "very important" to have cable TV channels that feature programs about area residents, organizations, events, schools, and government. NCTV has since replaced FCAT.

Here is a good example of why any survey quoted in the paper, or on TV, with out more information should be suspect. John Allen Paulos, has some great examples in Innumeracy, Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences. Were these truly random surveys? Buske surveyed the public, of which 200 were Comcast customers. It appears that Comcast surveyed existing customers. ”Self selected samples are not much more informative than a list of correct predictions of a psychic.” according to Paulos.

Ask drivers if they want to pay 1 cent more a gallon for better public transportation, the answer is no. Ask the general public if public transit is good, and should drivers pay 1 more cent a gallon for better public transportation the answer is yes. The fewer drivers asked the question, the higher the percentages of yes responses. Buske asked the public, Comcast asked cable customers. It was a self serving survey!

My question is what is Public TV worth? How many of the 10,000 customers actually watch public access TV? We do not know. If it is 10 percent, at $300,000 a year, the cost per viewer is $300 per viewer. If it is 2 percent it is $1,500 per viewer, all paid for by 98 percent of the non viewers. How do you think that 98 percent would answer the question?

What is Public TV worth? Watch Channel 11 for a couple of days before answering that question. Comcast Customers may be right - not much.

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