Nielsen Trials Back Controversial US Ratings System

13 May 2004

Nielsen Media Research claims new tests prove its under-fire electronic TV ratings system does not undercount black and Hispanic audiences.

The research giant conducted further trials of its local people meters in March after plans to introduce them in the New York television market met a barrage of complaints from broadcasters and politicians.

Critics, who have banded together under the banner of the Don't Count Us Out Coalition, argue that the electronic system under-represents black and Hispanic viewers. One of the leading opponents is News Corporation's Fox Television, which owns two stations in the market with big minority audiences.

According to Nielsen president/ceo Susan D Whiting, the March tests "in no way suggest that African-Americans or Latinos are undercounted." Indeed, many shows with high minority audiences saw a rise in viewers.

Nielsen claims the electronic system is better at detecting channel-switching than the current methodology, which relies on paper diaries. The March tests indicate that black and Hispanic viewers watch a broader range of programming than previously measured.

The research company last month postponed the New York launch of the local people meters from April 8 to June 3 [WAMN: 07-Apr-04].

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff