Nielsen Media Research has found high-profile "People Meter" allies in the Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and Martin Luther King Jr., chairman of the organization.
In a letter to Rainbow/PUSH members, the pair not only supported the meters, which are replacing the old diary system, but took a direct shot at Fox, which has been actively opposing the meters after tests in top market New York showed big viewing declines for Fox, as well as the Don't Count Us Out coalition, the opposition group that Fox has helped protest the rollout .
The endorsement is important because a number of minority groups, particularly Hispanics, have strongly opposed the roll-out of the meters, saying they undercount minority viewing. Nielsen has countered that they simply more accurately reflect viewer's movement to other media outlets. Jackson apparently agrees.
The NAACP has sent mixed signals on the issue, with Nielsen in the past citing NAACP President Kweisi Mfume as an enthusiastic supporter, while the group's chairman, Julian Bond, has been critical of the system.
"People Meter measurements prove that audiences of color--like other viewers--are shifting their allegiances from big broadcast channels like News Corp's Fox Television, to smaller channels and networks," Jackson says in the letter.
"We all want to be counted, but the count must be as fair and accurate and inclusive, and as scientifically sound as possible," he said. Jackson also cites the People Meter support from high-profile African-American executives Bob Johnson (BET), Kathy Hughes (Radio One) and Johnathan Rodgers (TV One).
The meters went live and solo in New York Sept. 1 (Nielsen had been continuing to supply parallel diary information for the first few weeks of the roll-out). They have been up and running in Boston since 2002, and were also recently rolled out in L.A. and Chicago. San Francisco is next at the end of the month as Nielsen continues to roll them out in major markets.
A copy of the entire letter is at http://www.rainbowpush.org/chicago/nielson.pdf