The increasingly acrimonious row between Nielsen Media Research and US media owners could cool following Monday's mediation offer by the Advertising Research Foundation.

The dispute centers round the introduction by Nielsen of its local people meter technology to monitor TV viewing in the New York metropolitan area -- in particular its proposed sampling methodology. Media owners and ethnic groups fear this could lead to an under-counting of black and Hispanic viewers [WAMN: 07-Jun-04].

By Monday the situation had reached stalemate, Nielsen proclaiming it would go ahead this week with its controversial system despite the opposition of some media owners, politicians and racial interest groups which together comprise the Don't Count Us Out Coalition. "Over our dead bodies," came the reply from the media lobby and its allies.

Enter the Advertising Research Foundation, a nonprofit corporate-membership association which represents more than 400 advertisers, advertising agencies, research firms, media companies, educational institutions and international organizations.

Says ARF president Robert L Barocci: "[The foundation] has generally not taken these type of public positions, but this issue is of such significant impact to the industry."

The body has offered to convene and lead a panel comprising Nielsen and its critics, among them Representative Charles B Rangel (Democrat, New York). "We're trying to bring some reason to the debate," says Barocci, "because the real issues are research issues [as opposed to political variances]."

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