NIELSEN EXPANDING TO DORMS

Nielsen Media Research, the company responsible for ratings and audience analysis of broadcast and cable output, says it will begin including college students who watch TV in their dorms in its sampling. Nielsen has long been criticized for excluding viewers who watch TV outside their homes, at hotels, bars, airports, health clubs and the like. Nielsen made it plain, however, that it is not going to begin measuring TV viewing in public places and will include college students only when they are already part of a selected Nielsen family. "They are household members; we're just following them to another residence," Nielsen spokeswoman Laura James told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times. The plan is expected to go into effect in time for next February's sweeps. In a statement, Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting, said, "We want full measurement of everyone who is watching television, and this is a significant first step towards achieving that goal."

OLD-FOLKS ADS BEGET OLD-FOLKS VIEWERS, SAYS GIBSON

Television networks create a kind of self-fulfilling expectation when they pack their news programs with ads for products appealing to older viewers, then watch the programs attract older viewers, ABC News anchor Charles Gibson has suggested. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gibson said that he would like to see more car ads in his program. "When you put on ads mostly for medicines, you're saying 'We want an older audience.' I would like ads that say 'We have a younger audience here.'" Asked why he declined to appear on Stephen Colbert's news spoof The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, which draws the kind of young audience the networks are trying to attract, Gibson replied, "I just didn't think it was something I should do. I wouldn't feel comfortable."

GIBSON'S AUDIENCE CONTINUES TO GROW

Ratings for ABC's World News With Charles Gibson continued to rise last week, thanks in large measure to chief investigative reporter Brian Ross's disclosures about disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley and Gibson's own on-the-scene coverage of the aftermath of the school shootings in Amish country, Pennsylvania. Gibson was the only network news anchor to travel to Pennsylvania. On Tuesday his broadcast from there tied NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, the usual leader. Meanwhile, the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric continued to experience audience erosion, falling 1.52 million viewers behind the NBC newscast and 930,000 behind ABC's. A week earlier the Couric newscast trailed Gibson's by just 100,000 viewers. Nevertheless, the overall audience for the CBS program is up 8 percent from the comparable week a year ago.

OLBERMANN'S AUDIENCE EXPANDING AT MSNBC

In just over a month, since MSNBC's Keith Olbermann began a blistering attack on the Bush administration, his ratings have soared 69 percent, the Associated Press observed Monday, citing figures from Nielsen Media Research. According to A.P., the sudden rise in Olbermann's audience -- it now exceeds CNN's Paula Zahn in the time period but amounts for less than half of FNC's Bill O'Reilly -- can be traced to his Countdown commentary following Donald Rumsfeld's speech equating Iraq War opponents to pre-World War II appeasers. "As a critic of the administration, I will be damned if you can get away with calling me the equivalent of a Nazi appeaser," Olbermann told the wire service. "No one has the right to say that about any free-speaking American in this country." Olbermann insists that no one in management at the channel has asked him to tone down his commentaries -- a far cry from the experience of his predecessor, Phil Donohue, who complained that MSNBC execs had asked him to add more conservatives to his guest list. The liberal commentator credits his rising ratings profile for keeping the channel's management at bay. "As dangerous as it can sometimes be for news, it is also our great protector," Olbermann said. "Because as long as you make them money, they don't care."

AILES LIKELY TO LAUNCH FOX BUSINESS CHANNEL NEXT YEAR, HE CONFIRMS

Fox News Channel chief Roger Ailes says there's a 75 percent chance that a Fox Business Channel will launch in 2007. However, in an interview with Jon Friedman of MarketWatch.com, he refused to disclose his plans for distinguishing the channel from its competitors. "Every time I say something, CNBC changes its programming," Ailes remarked, noting that he had toyed with the idea of telling interviewers that he planned to have his anchors work with their backs to the camera. "I can see that on CNBC in two weeks!" he said. Ailes, who was highly critical of Bill Clinton's angry retort to a question from Chris Wallace during an FNC interview last month, told Friedman, "The Democratic Party needed a leader. Bill stepped up and rallied the party." There has been considerable speculation about the increasing coziness between FNC owner Rupert Murdoch and the Clintons in recent months, with some commentators suggesting that the former president might be given his own program on the channel to balance its image. Asked about Hillary Clinton, Ailes replied, "I like her -- she's fine. She's tough [on terrorism]. Whether she runs for president or not, she'll be good for ratings overall."

Brian B.