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Channels 4 and 7 Renew Ratings Squabble

November 20, 1987|STEVE WEINSTEIN

KNBC-TV Channel 4 and KABC-TV Channel 7 renewed their squabbling over ratings this week when KNBC began listing its "Sunday Night Sports" and its preceding 15 minutes of news as two separate programs rather than one and asked the A.C. Nielsen Co. to report the November ratings of these programs individually.

Though both KABC and KCBS-TV Channel 2 already list their Sunday night news and sports programs separately, KABC is demanding that Nielsen refuse to allow the KNBC change because Channel 4 is asking that it be made retroactive to cover the first few weeks of this month's ratings sweeps.

"Sunday Night Sports" with Fred Roggin regularly beats both KABC's and KCBS' similar sports programs in the Nielsen ratings, but the audience for the 11 p.m. news and sportscasts dwindles on all stations during the 30-minute period, thereby lowering the overall rating of the entire newscast when the two segments are listed as one program. By listing them separately, KABC claims, Channel 4 can report a higher rating for the first 15 minutes of news.

A spokeswoman at Channel 4 said Thursday that the programs had been listed separately up until September, when changes in the station's research department precipitated an inadvertent error in the reporting of these segments. She also insisted that the station wants the programs listed separately because they truly are two separate programs, not because Roggin's show drags down the ratings for news.

"We are doing it to be accurate," she said. "We are not trying to manipulate the numbers."

But KABC, which came under fire last May for running a sweeps series on Nielsen families that other stations claimed had artificially inflated the ratings in its favor, is protesting the Nielsen company's decision to recalculate the news ratings for the three previous Sundays under KNBC's new scheme even though the two programs had been listed as one in television logs until this week.

In the past, a KABC spokesman said, "Nielsen has not accepted retroactive titling."

He also indicated that allowing a retroactive change could make the difference as to whether the Channel 4 News at 11 p.m. beats Channel 7's late-night news in the November ratings book. The stations are virtually tied after the first three weeks of the month-long sweeps.

KNBC downplayed the significance, saying that the ratings for the 30-minute period average out only one-tenth of a point lower than if the first 15 minutes was counted as a separate program.

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