Media Rating Council Yanks Accreditation for Nielsen Diary Markets

Media Rating Council (MRC) has pulled its accreditation of Nielsen measurement in its 154 diary-only markets, effective back to 2009.

The decision affects the smaller TV markets around the country, with the larger ones featuring Local People Meters and set-top meters.

The MRC is an independent outfit tasked with making sure audience measurement performs at a certain standard. MRC Senior VP-Associate Director Anthony Torrieri would not discuss why MRC yanked its accreditation for diary-only markets, saying the information was confidential for MRC members. "We don't go public with that information," he added.

Insiders say the problem stems from Nielsen shifting its recruitment tactics in diary markets. With more of the population dropping their land lines for cellphones, Nielsen has opted for address-based recruiting of Nielsen homes in its diary markets, as opposed to the old method of selecting by phone number. The new method resulted in sample sizes coming up short in two of the four quarters in 2009.

That prompted the MRC, according to station insiders, to pull its accreditation until Nielsen gets its sample issues in order.

MRC says it supports Nielsen's new address-based sampling.

Nielsen says it has had the issue worked out since November 2009. Nielsen has requested a new MRC audit, and said in a letter to station clients that it expects to be accredited again soon.

"We remain committed to the MRC process and will work closely with the MRC staff and our clients on obtaining reaccreditation for our services and on long-term improvement in all our audience measurement services," said Nielsen SVP-Managing Director Sabrina Crow in the letter.

Some on the station side are concerned about how the lack of MRC accreditation would affect their sales efforts.Others said the MRC's seal approval is not critical to business. "The large national shops might be concerned, but the [local advertisers] don't care," said one GM in a midsize market.

The MRC says it "looks forward to continuing to work with Nielsen to be able to reinstate accreditation of the NSI-Diary-Only markets in the future."

Torrieri would not offer a time frame for reinstatement, saying an audit process would be followed by some back and forth between MRC and Nielsen as they work out the issue. "It's tough to put a time frame on it," he said.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.