Ok. Let me get this out of the way up front. This map does NOT reveal any shocking spatial trend. We don’t look at it and think, “Oh, wow! I never would have expected there to be more TV stations in major cities!”… er, unless we have some seriously sarcastic thoughts. Loads of maps get tossed around the web these days showing some kind of single phenomenon on a national scale (McDonald’s or Roads, for example). These can generally be considered population density maps by proxy. The symbol used to represent the population density is what has changed. Where are people closest to McDonald’s franchises? This happens where people live in the greatest numbers. Where are most of the roads in the United States? Why, that happens where people live in the greatest numbers too! Please don’t get me wrong though. These maps can be beautiful. Ben Fry’s “All Streets” is breathtaking. I just don’t want anyone saying “duh” when I’m not trying to reveal any kind of spatial trend.
That said… look at this! This map shows all TV station broadcast areas in the contiguous United States as of August, 2010. The data come from the FCC. Broadcast areas are semi-transparent and of the same hue. Darker areas show locations and regions with many over-lapping signals. Lighter areas therefore reveal locations and regions with little or no TV reception. It’s just a graphic. There’s no analysis. But it’s still decently interesting to peruse.
Where do people watch TV? Where they live. Duh.