Critics say Nielsen results aren't accurate
By David Bauder
NEW YORK -- More than a year after a campaign was launched against Nielsen Media Research for fear that a new counting system would shortchange blacks, Nielsen says blacks are watching more television in all six cities that are using the new electronic meters.
Its critics remain unsatisfied, and the Senate held a hearing last month on a bill that would require greater oversight of the company that has a monopoly over measuring TV audiences.
Nielsen, which prefers a low public profile, was thrust into the spotlight when a coalition spearheaded by News Corp. complained about the switch. Participating Nielsen families now have their viewing tracked by an electronic meter instead of relying on memory to fill out paper diaries.
Test runs showed alarming ratings decreases among some shows popular with black audiences. If ratings slip, television stations earn less in advertising revenue and the show's survival is ultimately threatened.
In May, viewership measured by the new system was up in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington over the May 2004 diary results, Nielsen said.
Nielsen had problems a year ago recruiting and keeping families, and in building a sample that accurately reflected a population's ethnic composition, said David Poltrack, chief researcher for CBS and UPN.
"There has been a real full-frontal attack on this challenge by Nielsen, and that has resulted in significant improvements," he said.
Nielsen has staunchly defended the accuracy of its numbers throughout the dispute. But Karen Gyimesi, a Nielsen spokeswoman, admitted the critics have "definitely" helped the company improve its service.
Hidden beneath the overall viewership increases are numbers that have some television executives nervous.
The new "people meter" results show ratings higher for smaller networks than they were in the diaries, simply because people are less apt to recall and write down the times they surfed away during commercials. This could hurt the bigger networks.
In Washington, for example, Nielsen last year showed 15 percent of blacks watching TV in its time slot were tuned in to UPN's "Girlfriends." This year, that share had dropped to 9 percent. The black audience for "Oprah" also declined 30 percent during the same period in Washington.
LETS PAUSE THERE........
IF THE RATING SYSTEM REALLY GAVE A DAMM WHAT BLACK FOLKS WATCHED, IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO FIND OUT.
LET ME BE REAL HERE AND USE A LITTLE COMMON SENSE.
BLACK FOLKS, PARTICULARLY POOR BLACK FOLKS WILL PAY THE CABLE BILL BEFORE THEY PAY THE RENT.
BLACK FOLKS HAVE HIGHER UNEMPLOYMENT, FEWER JOB OPPORTUNITIES, FEWER RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES PARTICULARLY IN URBAN SETTINGS SO WHAT THE HELL DOES NIELSEN THINKS ALL OF THESE BLACK FOLKS ARE DOING WITH THEIR TIME!?
While fast food may not be tied to obesity for blacks, excessive TV watching has been linked to obesity, says Carlos Crespo, an associate professor of social and preventive medicine at the University of Buffalo in New York.
"Television is very powerful," Crespo says, noting that 60 percent of TV advertising is for food products.
In a study of 4,000 children completed two years ago, Crespo showed that black and white children both take in more calories the more they watch TV. Kids who watch four hours of TV a day eat about 150 calories more than those who watch two hours.
Episodes of weekly vigorous activity and daily hours of television watched, and their relationship to body mass index and body fatness. Eighty percent of US children reported performing 3 or more bouts of vigorous activity each week. This rate was lower in non-Hispanic black and Mexican American girls (69% and 73% respectively). Twenty percent of US children participated in 2 or fewer bouts of vigorous activity per week, and the rate was higher in girls (26%) than in boys (17%). Overall, 26% of US children watched 4 or more hours of television per day and 67% watched at least 2 hours per day. Non-Hispanic black children had the highest rates of watching 4 or more hours of television per day (42%).
Differences by Race and Ethnicity. For each age group and for each time point of assessment, larger proportions of black students watch television for six or more hours per day than do either white or Hispanic students. For example, among 9-year-old students, 40 percent of black students, compared to only 14 percent of white students, and 22 percent of Hispanic students reported watching television six or more hours per day during 1994.
RESEARCHERS APPARENTLY KNOW, SO HOW COME THE RATINGS ARE SO SCREWED UP?
ITS ABOUT THE DOLLARS. IT DOES NOT PAY TO ADVERTISE TO A BLACK DEMOGRAPHIC, DUH?
ONE EXAMPLE THE SHOW “FRIENDS”, I DON’T CARE WHAT SOME OF YOU THINK. THERE WAS “NOTHING” THAT ORIGINAL OR FUNNY ABOUT THE SHOW. BUT IT SET ALL KINDS OF RATINGS RECORDS. I GUARANTEE YOU LESS THAN 1% OF THE AUDIENCE WAS BLACK. BLACK FOLKS THOUGHT THE SHOW SUCKED! IT WAS A WHITE VERSION OF LIVING SINGLE!
JUST AS IN POLITICS OR TV RATINGS, THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT MINORITIES UNLESS THEY CAN ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING FOR THEM.
IT IS NOT IN NIELSEN’S INTEREST TO CARE WHAT BLACK FOLKS WATCH.
BACK TO THE ARTICLE.........
That may partly explain the continued activity of the Don't Count Us Out Coalition, a group of anti-Nielsen activists whose activities are bankrolled in part by News Corp.
The coalition is concerned that Nielsen results from black families are thrown out of the sample more frequently than those of whites because of problems with the numbers, spokesman Josh Lahey said. Nielsen said its "fault rates" are improving.
"You've got a large group of people that we don't know what they're watching," said Tom Herwitz, president of station operations for the Fox television group.
The News Corp.-owned stations are particularly worried that fault rates are very high among young black families, just the sort of audience that would be most interested in UPN's upcoming new comedy with Chris Rock, "Everybody Hates Chris," he said.
The coalition is backing federal legislation that would require Nielsen to receive accreditation from the Media Rating Council before introducing new technology like the people meters.
Nielsen is opposing the legislation, arguing that submitting each change for outside approval will limit the company's ability to improve and make viewership measurements as accurate as possible.