Rarely do internecine media spats enter the hallowed halls of the US Congress.

But how could any ambitious politico resist the potential career boost conferred by a conflict as emotive as Dutch [VNU]-owned Nielsen Media Research versus America's ethnic minorities, the latter funded and vociferously rooted for by [the formerly Australian] News Corporation?

Readers will be aware of the apparently simple issue [WAMN: 30-Jun-04]: does Nielsen's new Local People Meter technology "severely undercount" black and Hispanic TV viewers?

Yes and yes again, proclaims the Don't' Count Us Out coalition (campaign dollars generously provided by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, several of whose ethnic TV assets have taken a ratings hammering under the new system).

No way, counters Nielsen, which insists its former manual diary methodology flattered ethnic minority viewing data.

The hearings before the US Senate opened late last week with NMR ceo Susan D Whiting telling senators: "[Nielsen] will continue to listen to and work with all interested parties to ensure our measurements fully and fairly represents all television viewers. And we will stand firmly in defending an independent, objective and accurate ratings service in which everyone counts."

Added Whiting: "Most important, we will continue to resist all attempts to manipulate this process to mislead the public through a campaign that has nothing to do with protecting the rights of African Americans, Latinos or any other ethnic group, and everything to do with protecting the commercial self-interest of specific media companies."

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