Television

Nielsen facing growing opposition regarding proposed system for New York

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MUMBAI: Don't cut us out. That is the message that black and Hispanic groups are trying to get out to television measurement system Nielsen in New York.

From 8 April Nielsen is planning to use a new method for the big apple which is something that the minority groups are opposing.

The change involves adopting locally the so-called people meters Nielsen has used since 1986 to gather national ratings data. The people meters would replace the paper diaries Nielsen has provided to viewers in local markets since 1950, as well as set-top boxes that are not as technically sophisticated.

A report in the New York Times stated that Nielsen intends to switch New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to local people meters as part of plans to have all the 10 largest local markets using them by next year. Boston, shifted to people meters in 2002.

Leading New York lawmakers have over the past few days sent letters to Nielsen Media Research president and CEO Susan Whiting. The message is to ask Nielsen to stop undercounting minority viewers in New York City through the proposed new system. One letter reads thus "We are deeply concerned that while Nielsen Media Research has acknowledged errors in its tracking of minority viewership in New York City the company has not taken action to examine and correct its flaws. We have worked too long and too hard to try to create a diversity of voices in the media to see it all vanish due to one company's stubbornness."

Another letter stated, "If this flawed technology goes forward and minority viewers are systematically undercounted, the consequences could be severe. Programming featuring minority entertainers could lose significant audience share and be cancelled. Advertisers will no longer see a need to target their messages to minority consumers. The economic, social and cultural impact could be enormous."

Now the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and Congress members including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton have lent their weight to the protests. Nielsen meanwhile has defended the move stating that the number of households sampled with African-American and Hispanic viewers would actually increase under the proposed changes.

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