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BET Backs 'Local People Meters'

Embattled Nielsen Media Research got a show of support from Black Entertainment Television Tuesday. The Viacom Inc.-owned African-American-targeted cable network said it supports Nielsen's rollout of "Local People Meters."

Various minority activist groups, some legislators, and Fox, have charged that the meters severely undercount minorities. In fact, the meters do show drops in some minority viewing to broadcast TV, which Nielsen has said is because the meters are more accurately showing that those viewers have moved on to other media, like cable's BET.

Not surprisingly, BET agrees. Network President Debra Lee said the network has always been concerned that the paper diaries were "vulnerable to substantial inaccurracies.... It makes sense to use modern methodology like LPMs to accurately measure viewership at the local level." Nielsen already has a system of national meters. "Networks like BET could certainly benefit from information that depicts the true viewing patterns of African-American consumers," she said in a statement.

Nielsen is trying to roll out the meters in major markets nationwide, but has met with collective resistance from the Don't Count Us Out Coaliation. The coalition helped get the House Commerce Committee to call for a GAO audit of the meters. A Nielsen spokesman says the company has yet to receive official notice from Commerce about its GAO request, so has no comment.

The spokesman did say the company was "delighted" about the endorsement from BET and said its rollout schedule is still good to go. That would be June 3 in New York, July 8 in L.A., Aug. 5 in Chicago and Sept. 30 in San Francisco.

Currently, Boston is the only market using the Local People Meter, which has been in operation since 2002.