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Mass Media and the Black Community: AAAS 2251

An examination of the role media plays in the African American community. Ownership, access, and image making, are a few of the topics discussed. The goal of the resources within this guide is to develop an appreciation and an awareness of the roles of me

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Cheat Sheet

Rank = Number based on U.S. household rating percentage from Nielsen Media's National People Meter Sample.

Rating = Estimate of the size of a television audience relative to the total universe, expressed as a percentage. For the 2007-08 season, Nielsen Media Research has determined there are an estimated 112,800,000 television households in the U.S. This means that a single national household ratings point represents 1%, or 1,128,000 households.

Viewers = Includes all persons over thr age of two, unless stated otherwise.

For more information and explanation of the numbers, see Futon Critic's FAQ.

Recent Ratings

Many Internet resources provide prime-time ratings information for the previous or current week, but they often provide different amounts of information -- some include broadcast programs, others cable programs and/or networks, etc. Be sure to check across multiple sources.

Older Ratings

Many periodicals also provide prime-time ratings information in their weekly publications. Searching older issues can give you a historical perspective, letting you trace television programs across time. Use the libraries' databases to search for older Nielsen ratings.

Periodical Database(s) to Use Search Tips

Broadcasting & Cable
Business & Company Resource Center

(1999-present) [easier browsing]
In ABI/INFORM Complete, type nielsen and ratings in separate search boxes to retrieve the charts.

Business & Company Resource Center

(1994-present) [easier browsing]

USA Today
USA Today publishes a Nielsen ratings chart in its Life section (Section D) each week. Titled "Prime-Time Nielsen Ratings", this chart does not appear on the same day each week, so you need to check each day's paper to find the weekly chart.

Many databases containing the text of USA Today do not include the Nielsen ratings chart due to its format; however, the newspaper image database PressReader (formerly Library PressDisplay)  does.  Only the past 60 days is available.
In Library PressReader, use the Advanced Search option, and type Prime Time Nielsen Ratings in the search box.  Select USA Today from the "In newspapers" drop-down box.

Nexis Uni (formerly LexisNexis Academic)

Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text 
(1999-present) [easier browsing]

Copies are also available on microform

What are Nielsen Ratings?


Nielsen ratings measure the popularity of American television programs. Developed by Nielsen Media Research, the ratings are not qualitative evaluations of how much a program is "liked," but, instead, how many many people watched.

In essence, Nielsen ratings help determine the audience size and composition of television programming.

To learn more about how Nielsen collects the data to make the numbers come to life, see Ratings & Data, Sampling & Recruiting, and Meters & Diaries.


A.C. Nielsen

Who was the man behind the ratings? Arthur Charles (A.C.) Nielsen developed his famous market researching system, the Nielsen Ratings, for radio and television in the early 1940s, but he also did a lot more. Learn more about A.C. Nielsen from these sources: