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Ratings Task Force: Keep Voluntary MRC

The Nielsen-created Independent Task Force on Nielsen Measurement, which has been looking into the role of the Media Rating Council in approving TV ratings systems, has recommended some changes, but they don't include making MRC accreditation mandatory for media ratings systems.

There has been legislation introduced that would require that mandatory accreditation, which is currently voluntary.

The issue became the stuff of Washington hearings after critics of Nielsen's new Local People Meters claimed they undercounted minorities. Some broadcasters (Fox in particular) lobbied legislators, including Sen. Conrad Burns, to step in.

Burns' FAIR Ratings Act would require that any TV ratings system, or changes to that system, be pre-approved by the client-backed, government-created Media Rating Council.

In a report released Monday, the committee, chaired by former Congresswoman Cardiss Collins, recommended adding more advertiser representation to the MRC, add consumer groups to the council in a nonvoting capacity, cut the dues for smaller and minority companies (currently $10,500 per year); and change voting for accreditation from a show of hands to a recorded vote.

All that can be accomplished, the report concluded, "through the continuation and expansion of a voluntary, collaborative, and cooperative framework that fairly represents the interest of all of the MRC's members and other stakeholders.

Nielsen was still reviewing the findings at press time.