Skip to main content

Collins: No Minorities at MRC Hearing?

Former Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.) Tuesday complained that a Senate committee hearing Wednesday, on proposed legislation that would essentially regulate TV ratings, won’t have any witnesses from minority groups.

Collins is chairman of the Independent Task Force on Television Measurement, which was created last year and spent more than eight months evaluating Nielsen Media Research’s measurement of minority audiences. The task force included 19 industry, community and business leaders who made various recommendations to Nielsen.

The Senate Commerce Committee is conducting a hearing Wednesday on a “Fair Ratings Act” bill being sponsored by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.). The legislation mandates that all ratings services must receive accreditation from the Media Rating Council, an industry body. Six witnesses are listed to appear at the hearing, which Burns called for.

“I find it hard to believe that the Senate would hold a hearing regarding fairness in ratings without receiving testimony from at least one person of color, especially since this legislation would negatively impact minority communities and is purportedly designed to protect them,” Collins said in a prepared statement. “Clearly, this panel is not representative of the changing demographics of America.”

The scheduled witnesses for the hearing are: MRC executive director George Ivie; Nielsen president Susan Whiting; Ceril Shagrin, Univision’s executive vice president; Tribune Broadcasting CEO Pat Mullen; Kathy Crawford, president of local broadcast for MindShare Worldwide; and Gale Metzger, former CEO of Smart Media Ltd.

“In an effort to give the Senate the best expert testimony to evaluate the Fair Ratings bill, we have invited a number of people to testify in tomorrow’s hearing,” Burns said in a prepared statement.

“Included are experts on TV-ratings research and measurement, and a representative from Univision will testify on the measurement of minority populations,” he added. “I have worked on this issue for some time now, and the fact that this new ratings system does not accurately count minority populations is one of my main concerns, and I will be looking to our witnesses tomorrow to speak to these concerns.”

Also Tuesday, Whiting issued an update to clients that said Nielsen is in ongoing talks with the MRC about a proposed voluntary code of conduct -- a set of guidelines for measurement companies seeking accreditation.

“We believe the code represents a valid approach to enhancing the MRC process,” Whiting wrote. “Assuming that the review of the code is completed and that the text of the code is agreed to by the vendors and measurement services, Nielsen intends to adopt the code.”

Nielsen has also formed an Advertiser Advisory Council, which will hold its first meeting Aug. 4 in Chicago. The council, made up of eight members, will serve as a forum for advertisers to communicate their strategic initiatives to Nielsen.

“I am excited to begin working closely with the members of this council and to receive their direct feedback and insight into how Nielsen can work effectively to support the priorities of advertisers,” Whiting said.

The Advertiser Advisory Council Members are: Vicky Champlin, director of media planning for Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.; Mark Kaline, global media manager for Ford Motor Co.; Roger Adams, The Home Depot U.S.A. Inc.’s senior VP of marketing; Michael Lao, MasterCard International Inc. VP of global media; Peter Sterling, McDonald’s Corp. VP of marketing, USA; Gregg Ross, Procter & Gamble Co.’s director of North America media and marketing; Cheryl Idell, executive VP of media marketing and planning for 20th Century Fox Film Corp.; and Laurie DePrete, Verizon Communications Inc.’s director of marketing, communications and branding.

Nielsen is also on schedule to install digital-video-recorder homes into its “National” and “Local People Meter” sample in January, and it is considering offering a $15 cash incentive for households 35 and younger for its dairy sample, according to Whiting.