is inherently a medium of fixed location and because of its dependence
on direct-wave radiation, television broadcasting is particularly
so. In the United States, because of the dominance of advertising,
these fixed locations have come to be called markets. Additionally
the term market may refer to a group of people of interest to broadcasters
and/or advertisers for business reasons. Indeed, the term is increasingly
used in this manner throughout the world as more and more television
systems become supported by advertising revenue or other commercial
The broadcast television signal operates by direct-wave radiation;
the signal waves must travel in a straight line from the transmitting
to the receiving antenna. Even if transmitters could operate with
unlimited power, television broadcasting operates in a geography
fixed by the horizon of the curve of the earth's surface. As the
signal radiates outward from a transmitting antenna it produces
a more-or-less round geographical coverage pattern, with a radius
of about 60 miles for VHF (Very High Frequency) stations and about
35 miles for UHF (Ultra High Frequency) stations. The coverage contour
can be distorted by hills and mountains that block the signal, increased
by antenna height, or added to by translators that rebroadcast the
signal at another frequency in another location, or by retransmission
on cable television systems.
the inherent locatedness of television broadcasting, the United
States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocates channels
and assigns licenses to facilities in communities. The word "market"
has come to be the designator of those communities, reflecting the
degree to which advertising dominates television in the United States.
Anyone doing any type of business in an area may of course refer
to that area or the people living in it as a market, placing the
boundaries wherever sensible for the business in question. This
practice includes the operators of commercial television. (The operators
of noncommercial television facilities have less reason to use the
word market, though it is increasingly applied in this arena.) In
the business of television these geographically outlined markets
are formally defined by the ratings companies, among which Nielsen
Media Research dominates.
are defined by Nielsen as Designated Market Areas (DMAs) in a manner
essentially the same that the Arbitron company, which is no longer
in the business of providing television ratings, once defined Areas
of Dominant Influence (ADIs). Both acronyms are still commonly used
and designate essentially the same thing.
are defined by county, or in some cases parts of counties (for convenience
counties will suffice). Every county in the United States is assigned
to one and only one DMA. Each DMA is named after the city that defines
its center, such as the Chicago DMA or the Des Moines DMA. Each
county is assigned to that DMA in which are located the television
stations most watched in the county in question. So, for example,
Los Angeles County is assigned to the Los Angeles DMA because the
television stations that the people in Los Angeles County watch
most often are located in Los Angeles County. But Orange County
is also assigned to the Los Angeles DMA because the most frequently
watched television stations Orange County are also located in Los
a system of categories, in which every county in the United States
is assigned to one and only one DMA, is considered mutually exclusive
and exhaustive. Such systems have formal advantages. The key benefit
here is the simple arithmatic arithmetic for manipulating numbers
associated with the categories. Since none of the markets overlap,
numbers associated with any of them can be added together to describe
a market that would be defined as the aggregate of the smaller markets.
Since no area is left out of the system of market definitions, the
sum of all of them defines the national market. This eases calculation
of ratings and other data for local, regional, or national markets,
and for syndicated, cable, and network television shows available
in different areas.
In addition to these formal uses of the term market, as Nielsen's
DMA or regional or national aggregates of DMAs, there are various
other uses for the term market in the television business. One of
the most common is in phrases such as "the African-American market,"
"the Hispanic market," or "an upscale market". These are extensions
of the use of demographics to define types of people of interest
to advertisers and other business people. In either usage the term
remains a clear marker of the commercial aspects of the U.S. television
industry, in which buying and selling--of both programs and audiences--is
a central component.
Bagdikian, Ben H. The Media Monopoly. Boston, Massachusetts:
Beacon Press, 1992.
Leo. Commercial Culture: The Media System and the Public Interest.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Benjamin, with others, editors. Who Owns the Media? Concentration
of Ownership in the Mass Communication Industry. New York: Harmony
Audiences. New York: Mediamark Research Inc., 1986 Study of
Media & Markets. New York: Simmons Market Research Bureau, 1990.
Joseph. Media Systems in Society: Understanding Industries, Strategies,
and Power. New York: Longman, 1992.
See also A.C.
Nielsen Company; Advertising;
Magid Associates; Ratings;