Ratings as Politics. Television Audience Measurement and the State: An International Comparison

Jérôme Bourdon, Cécile Meadel


Whereas most research has focused on the commercial uses of television audience measurement, this article examines the political dimension of audience measurement in a comparative study of France, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It identifies three types of relationships between the state and measurement. The guarantor state performs measurement via a public broadcaster and is involved in its implementation, be it as shareholder of the organization in charge of measurement, as reformer, or as supervisor of measurement procedures. The regulator state introduces audience measurement figures as criteria for policy into constraining legal texts, mostly to regulate concentration. The reader state interprets audience measurement figures as legitimate representations of the public. This political dimension helps explain the semiofficial status of measurement institutions across the countries studied.


: television audience measurement, ratings, Nielsen, broadcasting regulation, France, Israel, United Kingdom, United States

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