A congressional audit has been ordered on a new system for measuring TV viewership in big cities, which some critics contend will undercount blacks and Latinos.
In asking the General Accounting Office to look into Nielsen Media Research's methodology, Congress wants Nielsen to delay full implementation of its new system in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, said Jon Tripp, spokesman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Nielsen, which has a monopoly on counting TV viewers, is switching to an electronic system for measuring local habits that it contends will be far more accurate. Currently, 500 households in a city are asked to record their TV viewing in a diary kept during four "sweeps" months. Nielsen is increasing its sample to 800 homes per city and measuring viewing every day through a "people meter" device attached to televisions.
Some critics say dry runs of the new system have shown sharply lower ratings for some programs popular in black and Latino homes.