This is a study of the introduction to Israel of a technology for measuring television audiences, the ‘People Meter’ (PM), focusing on its political aspects. It links the new practice to the history of the state, precisely to the emergence of the neo-liberal state, which brought about a new relation to numbers, using an increased quantity of statistics for the regulation of economic sectors. In Israel, the state, in both its old (government ministers, administrators, state-owned/public channels) and new (regulatory bodies) guises, has been deeply involved in audience measurement. Next, the study situates the history of audience measurement in a global context, examining the ways in which both public actors, and private actors associated with international marketing groups have domesticated a new mode of regulation for audience measurement – the Joint Industry Committee (JIC), and the new ‘state-of-the-art’ technology – the PM. Third, it considers the political role played by audience figures in the fight over the representation of the public and of specific minorities in the public sphere: the Arab minority in Israel, the Palestinians and the settlers in the occupied territories, the Jewish minorities from the former Soviet Union (FSU) and from Ethiopia.
- political representation
- public sphere
- television audience measurement