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O'Reilly Cites Use of Nielsen Data for 'Significantly Viewed' Decisions

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly is raising the issue of whether it is a problem that Nielsen currently has a lock on the data used to determine whether a TV station has significant out-of-market viewing.

If the FCC determines that there is significant out-of-market viewing, cable and satellite MVPDs can import that station into a market, even if it duplicates syndicated and network programming.

The FCC uses Nielsen data both for that viewing and for market definitions. The commission voted unanimously Tuesday (March 31) to look whether the FCC should update its methodology for making those viewing determinations, but O'Rielly also brought up a related issue in his statement on the vote.

"We note in today’s item that Nielsen viewership surveys are the data source underlying much of the Significantly Viewed TV Stations List simply as a matter of practice and, likely, efficiency," he said. "Another Nielsen measurement, the Designated Market Area (DMA), is codified in the statute and must be utilized when developing data related to local markets. In cases where the DMA must be used as a matter of law, it has created challenges for other broadcast data research firms that have no choice but to pay royalties to Nielsen in order to utilize DMAs in their analysis, as the DMA is a proprietary measurement even though it is widely used throughout the industry."

O'Rielly said he was not offering any conclusions one way or the other, but raising the issue suggested it was, well, an issue. He did "encourage further analysis" of whether that is a problem, and what the FCC could do about it.