GMAT : Analysis of An Argument

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An Argument


84. The following appeared as part of an article on trends on television.

A recent study of viewers' attitudes toward prime-time television programs shows that many of the programs that were judged by their viewers to be of high quality appeared on (non-commercial) television networks and that, on commercial television, the most popular shows are typically sponsored by the bestselling products. Thus, it follows that businesses who use commercial television to promote their products will achieve the greatest advertising success by sponsoring only highly-rated programs and, ideally, programs resembling the highly-rated non-commercial programs on public channels as much as possible.


Question


Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.

Analysis


This article concludes that businesses using commercial television to promote their products will achieve the greatest advertising success by sponsoring only highly-rated programs - preferably, programs resembling the highly-rated non-commercial programs on public channels. He supports this claim on the basis of a recent study indicating that many programs judged by viewers to be high in quality appeared on non-commercial networks and that the most popular shows on commercial television are typically sponsored by the best-selling products.

This argument is weak because it depends on three questionable assumptions.

The first of these assumptions is that non-commercial public television programs judged by viewers to be high in quality are also popular. However, the study cited by the author concerns viewer attitudes about the high quality of programs on non- commercial public television, not about their popularity. A program might rate highly as to quality but not in terms of popularity. Thus, the author unfairly assumes that highly-rated public television programs are necessarily widely viewed, or popular.

The argument also assumes that programs resembling popular non-commercial programs will also be popular on commercial television. However, the audiences for the two types of programs differ significantly in their tastes. For example, a symphony series may be popular on public television but not as a prime-time network show, because public-television viewers tend to be more interested than commercial-television viewers in the arts and higher culture. Thus, a popular program in one venue may be decidedly unpopular in the other.

A third assumption is that products become best-sellers as a result of their being advertised on popular programs. While this may be true in some cases, it is equally possible that only companies with products that are already best-sellers can afford the higher ad rates that popular shows demand. Accordingly, a lesser-known product from a company on a smaller budget might be better off running repeated - but less expensive - ads on less popular shows than by running just one or two costly ads on a top-rated show.

In conclusion, the results of the cited study do not support the author's conclusion. To better evaluate the argument, we need to know the intended meaning of the phrase highly-rated.

To strengthen the argument, the author must limit his conclusion by acknowledging that popularity in public television might not translate to popularity in commercial television and that the best advertising strategy for companies with best-selling products may not be feasible for other businesses.

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