Nielsen Forms Latino Research Alliance

Nielsen Media Research is entering into an alliance with a Latino research institute in an effort to improve the measurement of Hispanic TV audiences, officials said Wednesday.

Under the initiative, nationally recognized Latino social scientists will evaluate and make recommendations regarding all aspects of the rating company’s audience measurement.

Nielsen is forming the research alliance -- the first of its kind in the company’s 54-year history -- with the William C. Velasquez Institute in Los Angeles.

The WCVI, founded in 1985, is the research-and-policy arm of the Southwest Voter Registration Project, the largest and oldest nonpartisan Latino voter-participation group in the United States.

As part of the alliance, researchers will analyze system designs, sampling, recruitment and training at Nielsen, with that research team’s work coordinated by Nielsen and the WCVI.

The team of researchers includes Max Castro, professor of sociology at Florida State University; Henry Flores, dean of the graduate school at St. Mary’s University; and Andrew Hernandez, professor of leadership at St. Mary’s.

“We look forward to working with Nielsen to address the dynamic changes in the market and to provide an objective, third-party evaluation of all aspects of the television-ratings system,” Flores said in a prepared statement. “This is a huge benefit to Latinos.”

Paul Lavrakas, vice president of methodological research, will lead the research initiative for Nielsen.

“We are delighted to begin what I am certain will be a long-standing, collaborative relationship with Nielsen,” Antonio Gonzalez, president of the WCVI and the SVREP, said in a prepared statement.

“The Willie C. Velasquez Institute will provide an avenue for the Latino community to work with Nielsen and help facilitate an enhanced understanding of the Latino community,” Gonzalez added. “Everyone in the television business has heard of Nielsen, but very few people in the Latino community know Nielsen. Our new relationship is going to change that.”

Wednesday’s announcement comes on the heels of news earlier this week that the Rev. Jesse Jackson has endorsed Nielsen’s controversial “Local People Meters,” which had come under attack by both African-American and Hispanic groups earlier this year.

In addition to the research alliance, Nielsen will become a major sponsor of the WCVI’s Latino Academy, a training school for Latino elected officials, activists, candidates, policy analysts and opinion leaders.

“Nielsen Media Research looks forward to building on this new strategic relationship with the William C. Velasquez Institute, as well as with the SVREP,” CEO Susan Whiting said in a prepared statement.

“I am also confident that our hands-on work with these highly respected researchers will greatly enhance Nielsen’s ability to more accurately measure the television-viewing behavior of a highly diverse and rapidly growing Latino community,” Whiting added.