Nielsen Bows to Criticism Over New York TV Ratings

07 April 2004

Nielsen Media Research has postponed a change to its TV ratings methodology for New York after a barrage of criticism from politicians, TV firms and minority groups.

The research titan was due to roll out its 'people meters' on Thursday to replace the existing paper diary system. However, it has delayed the launch until June 3 as it responds to claims the new methodology underestimates black and Hispanic viewing.

Nielsen has used people meters -- electronic devices attached to television sets -- for its national data since 1987. But local ratings, which are used to set ad rates, have continued to rely on paper diaries.

The introduction of the new technology into local markets has been beset with problems. Nielsen has already postponed the launch of people meters in Los Angeles and Chicago after it found the samples it was using did not accurately represent the cities' demographic profiles.

In New York, opponents of the new system claim that test runs showed steep falls in audiences for the leading African-American and Spanish-language shows.

Among Nielsen's critics have been Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, News Corporation (which owns stations that carry UPN, a network with a strong African-American following) and a coalition of minority lobby organisations [WAMN: 31-Mar-04].

Announcing the delay, the ratings firm defended its people meters, but admitted it needed more time to talk to politicians and community representatives. It has also formed a task force to ensure minority groups are accurately represented.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff