Nielsen’s Peace Offering Fails to Wow Media Critics

03 June 2004

The halfway house proposed by Nielsen Media Research to sweeten opposition to its new electronic TV measurement system, the Local People Meter, is "insufficient" say critics.

Branded unrepresentative of black, Hispanic and young viewers, the introduction to the New York City area of the device – which generates TV ratings data for use in advertising and programme planning – has already been postponed from April 8.

Scheduled to start Tuesday, Nielsen had hoped its compromise plan of running people meters plus the traditional paper diary sampling method in tandem with the controversial electronic system would suffice over a three month teething period to reassure its adversaries.

Not so, it seems. Critics such as Ceril Shagrin, svp at the most-watched Hispanic network in the US, Univision Communications, remain vehemently opposed to the introduction of the new system. Shagrin also views the temporary twin-sample method as "ludicrous", demanding Nielsen "go out with a single set of numbers".

Another major critic of the scheme, the Don't Count Us Out Coalition, hopes it will make its voice heard, both in New York and Chicago, where people meters are scheduled for introduction on August 5. It has devised angry TV and print ads and avers that "any action by Nielsen other than a complete postponement of local people meters is just another irresponsible stall tactic".

NMR's New York president and chief executive, Susan D Whiting, is presumably grateful to Viacom's African-American network BET for not adding to the anguish -- it has expressed support for Nielsen's change of plan.

Whether or not its New York plans are thwarted, Nielsen still hopes the top ten US TV markets will be fully converted to LPMs by the end of next year.

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