New Twists in Nielsen 'LPM' Saga

The Nielsen Media Research "Local People Meter" saga continues to add news twists and turns daily.

Tuesday's installments include a Los Angeles Times story about the Media Ratings Council audit of Nielsen's under-fire meters and the clarification that the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau does not oppose the LPMs, as had been suggested by meter critics.

The Times story says that an Ernst & Young audit of the New York meters for the Media Ratings Council found that one in six viewers was improperly identified as black and 1 in 14-and-a-fraction Hispanic viewers were mislabeled. The Council voted not to accredit the Nielsen service in New York until those problems were corrected.

The Don't Count Us Out Coalition, a Fox-supported collection of minority groups fighting the roll-out of Local People Meters--saying they undercount minorities--jumped on the story. "Given these grim numbers," the Coalition said in a statement Tuesday, "Don’t Count Us Out/Queremos Ser Contados once again calls on Nielsen to immediately cease the use of the LPM system in New York City and to announce an indefinite delay of the launch of the LPM system in any new markets until an independent review can be completed." It also called on the MRC to release the full audit.

On the issue of CAB's opposition to the meters, the Coalition Monday had characterized CAB as "call[ing] for the Nielsen Media Research Company to stop the implementation of the Local People Meters."
Incorrect, said CAB research VP, Ira Sussman. CAB supports Local People Meters, says Sussman, who called them light years ahead of diaries. Sussman says most MSO's want them rolled out as quickly as possible. That's not surprising, since the meters have been reporting drops in broadcast viewing and boosts in cable-watching by minorities.

What CAB wants, and what it asked for in a letter to Nielsen President Susan Whiting, is the local meter problems addressed and the service accredited before Nielsen rolls the LPMs into the national mix.

That national sample is now 5,000, with Nielsen planning to expand it to 10,000 by including the LPM's from 10 major-market rollouts, plus some other homes to balance the sample. "Right now, the national sample is fully audited and accredited," says Sussman, "and until the local is, too, it shouldn't be included. But New York, L.A. and Boston (which rolled out in 2002 unaccredited by eventually got the MRC stamp) can stand on their own."

While CAB shares the MRC's concerns about non-compliance issues in New York, it feels that even with those issues the meters are a vast improvement over diaries. "Many local MSO members and many agency researchers have said that the LPM in NY should be used today for buying and selling local time while Nielsen addresses the MRC issues, "Sussman told B&C.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.