Nielsen Bows to Strictures on US TV Ethnic Sampling

30 April 2004

Market monitoring mammoth Nielsen Media Research announced Wednesday it had bowed to the recent torrent of criticism over the ethnic mix of its Local People Meter research sampling in the New York metropolitan area.

One major critic of the amalgam was Lachlan Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation and chairman of Fox Television Stations Group.

He expressed concern over "growing evidence that the methodology may be flawed -- particularly in large, ethnically diverse urban areas -- and could undercount viewership among minority and young viewers in particular".

But there are opponents of Nielsen's sampling system even more formidable than NewsCorp: to whit Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (Democrat, New York), whom many see as the next but one president of the United States.

She wrote to Nielsen president/ceo Susan D Whiting, airing her concern that the new system is "undercounting minority viewers." Also manning the barricade alongside Clinton was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

As a result of the heavyweight lobbying, Nielsen postponed its introduction of LPMs in the New York area, pending a revaluation of the methodology. On Wednesday the outcome of its deliberations was made known in a press release.

This announced an increase in the company's samples of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, both at the local and national level. The move, claims Nielsen, "will produce more stable data and greater levels of demographic information about African-American and Hispanic-American television audiences than is currently available".

Making a virtue of neccessity, Whiting hyped: "This is the largest expansion of African-American and Hispanic-American TV households in the history of the Nielsen television measurement service."

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; additional content by WARC staff