- A people meter is an audience measurement tool used to measure the viewing habits of TV and cable audiences. The People Meter is a 'box', about the size of a paperback book. The box is hooked up to each television set and is accompanied by a remote control unit. Each family member in a sample household is assigned a personal 'viewing button'. It identifies each household member's age and sex. If the TV is turned on and the viewer doesn't identify themselves, the meter flashes to remind them. Additional buttons on the People Meter enable guests to participate in the sample by recording their age, sex and viewing status into the system. The device, known as a 'frequency-based meter', was invented by a British company called Audits of Great Britain. The successor company to AGB is TNS, which is active in 34 countries around the globe. Originally, these meters identified the frequency of the channels - VHF or UHF - watched on the viewer's TV set. This system became obsolete when Direct to Home satellite dish became popular and viewers started to get their own satellite decoders. In addition, this system doesn't measure digital broadcasts. Before the People Meter advances, Nielsen used the diary method, which consisted of viewers physically recording the shows they watched. However, there were setbacks with the system. Lower-rated stations claimed the diary method was inaccurate and biased. They argued that because they had lower ratings, those who depended on memory for the diary method the may only remember to track their favorite shows. Stations also argued that if it wasn’t low ratings that skewed the diary method, it might also be the new variety of channels for viewers to choose from. Viewers may not be able to record everything they watch and there is no way of discovering the truth. Finally in 1986, Nielsen developed an electronic meter, People Meter, to solve the problem. The People Meter is an electronic method of television measurement that moved from active and diary-based to passive and meter-monitored. The meter also recorded real time simultaneously viewing, reducing memory bias.
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