Inside television audience measurement: deconstructing the ratings machine

Abstract : Based on empirical research in France, this article proposes a sociological analysis of television audience measurement (TAM), an operation in which people from various backgrounds (statisticians, engineers, marketing experts) coexist to produce numerical representations of television audiences. These are a major, basic "currency" in the television industry and, more broadly speaking, in television culture. This analysis departs from prevalent conceptions of ratings as either "scientific" and therefore faithful representations of audience preferences, or, from a critical perspective, as apparatuses of surveillance and domestication. Focusing on the technology of peoplemeters, it analyzes ratings as the product of a highly complex socio-technical network, which produces robust representations of the audience, accepted by a wide range of social actors.
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Cécile Méadel, Jérôme Bourdon. Inside television audience measurement: deconstructing the ratings machine. Media, Culture and Society, SAGE Publications, 2011, 33 (5), pp.791-800. ⟨10.1177/0163443711404739⟩. ⟨hal-01821830⟩

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