The author of The Conservative Mind once described the automobile as “a mechanical Jacobin,” and when he found his daughters had smuggled a television up to the attic to watch more TV than they were allowed, he threw the offending device off the roof.
Kirk was young before his time. “Surveys suggest that young people ‘prefer to live places where they can easily walk, bike, and take public transportation’,” Brad Plumer notes in a Washington Post piece titled “Why Aren’t Younger Americans Driving Anymore?” For all Americans, “vehicle miles driven have fallen 8.75 percent. The decline has persisted for 92 months and there’s no sign it’s abating.”
Then there’s this Marketing Charts report on Nielsen’s fourth-quarter 2012 television viewership numbers:
In Q4, 12-17-year-olds watched roughly 21 and a half hours of TV per week, the lowest amount of any age group. Interestingly, that not only was about 45 minutes less than Q4 2011, it was about 1 hour less than the previous quarter, which may serve as another indication that teens are getting their political news (however much they consume) through sources other than TV.
Looking at year-over-year patterns, teen consumption on TV decreased by 45 minutes in Q4, dropped by 98 minutes in Q3, by 47 minutes in Q2, and by 127 minutes in Q1. Other than the fact that viewership dropped each quarter, there aren’t many linear trends to take away from that. Perhaps more significant is when the major drops in viewership occurred. Q1 and Q3 were the heaviest TV viewing periods for teens (coinciding somewhat with TV seasons), but those showed the biggest consumption declines.
The Associated Press, meanwhile, notes how nervous the National Association of Broadcasters is getting about “zero TV” homes. “There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007,” reports Ryan Nakashima:
Nielsen’s study suggests that this new group may have left traditional TV for good. While three-quarters actually have a physical TV set, only 18 percent are interested in hooking it up through a traditional pay TV subscription.
Zero TVers tend to be younger, single and without children. Nielsen’s senior vice president of insights, Dounia Turrill, says part of the new monitoring regime is meant to help determine whether they’ll change their behavior over time. “As these homes change life stage, what will happen to them?”
I don’t think they’ll be tuning in even once they’re married and settled. As for the fact that three-quarters of this group does own TV sets, that has to be offset against anecdotes like this, from one Jeremy Carsen Young, who isn’t putting up the antenna to receive free transmissions because “‘I don’t think we’d use it enough to justify having a big eyesore on the house,’ the 30-year-old says.”
Whether Russell Kirk would altogether approve of the iPad is another question, but the new breed of devices does require more user input, as opposed to the passive receptivity that characterizes the television viewer. And as Plumer quotes from a Frontier Group report, “Websites and smart phone apps that provide real-time transit data make public transportation easier to use, particularly for infrequent users.”