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Stop the Local People Meter

Washington—Two senior U.S. senators demanded that Nielsen cease the use of its new rating system and announced plans to hold a hearing July 15 to examine its accuracy.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) issued a joint statement calling for the hearing. Burns wants Nielsen to submit to an "independent review" before proceeding with the LPM rollout.

The stunning development was the latest in a growing controversy over the new ratings system, which critics say undercounts viewing by minorities, particularly Hispanics and African-Americans.

Burns's demand freezes, for the moment, Nielsen's plan to roll out its local people meter service. His comments were unequivocal: "Nielsen should cease the use of the new LPM system in New York and delay any further rollout. The public has a right to know that the rating system which defines the public airwaves is accurate and fair for all viewers."

Nielsen's response last week: "Nielsen looks forward to an open and candid discussion of all the issues."

The research film also filed a response to a Univision lawsuit seeking a delay of the people meter in Los Angeles. In the filing, Nielsen accuses Univision of distorting the facts in order to gain advantage in the ad-sales marketplace. Nielsen said Univision's claim that the LPM records big ratings drops for Spanish-language programming is false.

While the Univision station in the Los Angeles market, KMEX, gets lower ratings under the new LPM, "the total ratings for all Spanish-language stations is not lower, but higher," Nielsen said. Nielsen also said the claim that Hispanics are underrepresented in the LPM sample was based on data for March, before the full sample was in place. Now the sample is more reflective of the market's Hispanic population, Nielsen said.