Show Business: Tripped on the Riggings

The dragon of televisionland is the Nielsen ratings service, and this spring its foes gleefully thought that they had found a white knight to slay it. Their champion was Richard ("Rex") Sparger, an ex-reporter and former Oklahoma state legislator, who boasted publicly that he "could make a hit of a show that was a failure." He also claimed that he had kited the ratings of four programs, notably last February's CBS special An Evening with Carol Charining.*

His method was to sleuth out—in a way still not fully known—the names of 58 of the...