Sens. Dive Into ‘LPM’ Debate

A Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing next month on Nielsen Media Research’s controversial “Local People Meters,” with one senator Friday calling for the ratings company to stop using the new system in New York and to delay future launches.

Sens. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the Senate Communications Subcommittee will examine the LPM system during a hearing July 15.

“Nielsen should cease the use of the new LPM system in New York and delay any further rollouts until they have committed to an independent review,” Burns said in a prepared statement. “The public has a right to know that the rating system that defines the public airwaves is accurate and fair for all viewers.”

Burns and Boxer noted in their press release about their hearing that questions have been raised about the accuracy and fairness of LPMs and whether they accurately record viewership of all ethnic groups.

In response, Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said, “We look forward to an open and candid discussion of all of the issues.”

Nielsen -- which is set to roll out LPMs in Los Angeles July 8 -- is being sued by Univision Communications Inc. to stop that deployment. Broadcasters such as News Corp. and a coalition of Hispanic and African-American groups called Don’t Count Us Out, are also asking the ratings service to delay its LPM launches.

“California’s diversity is a hallmark of my state,” Boxer said. “It is in the public interest that all Californians are fully counted in our entertainment marketplace -- as viewers, producers and entertainers. I want to work with all parties to ensure that any new system works for everybody.”

Don’t Count Us Out issued a statement lauding Burns and Boxer for setting the hearing.

“The announcement of these hearings represents a historic step by Congress toward ensuring fairness and accuracy in media ratings,” Don’t Count Us Out said.

“Today, Nielsen Media Research is an unregulated monopoly,” the group added. “This position of unchecked power in the ratings market creates a situation where the American viewing public has no protection and no advocate. We agree with Sen. Burns that Nielsen should delay the rollout of the LPM system.”