Sohn Backs Nielsen as FCC's Audience Data Source

FCC nominee Gigi Sohn at Senate confirmation hearing
(Image credit: C-SPAN)

Democratic FCC nominee Gigi Sohn said that she is confident Nielsen Designated Market Areas remain the appropriate way to determine national audience reach.

That was among the written answers Sohn provided to questions posed by various Senate Commerce Committee members following her nomination hearing two weeks ago, according to a copy of her answers.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) had asked her thoughts on the FCC's use of audience data and the sources it relies on. The FCC uses that data to define local markets in terms of audience reach when enforcing its national TV station ownership cap of 39% of TV households.

Also: Nielsen asks FCC 'Where's the Beef?'

Sohn pointed out that the FCC had used Nielsen DMAs to determine audience reach in terms of the cap since 1999, a move the broadcast industry supported because DMAs were also used in the context of must-carry/retransmission consent rules since the FCC concluded in 1996 it was the appropriate determinant of a local market when it came to MVPD carriage.

She said she had "no reason" to believe DMA data "is not accurate or reliable" for those purposes and said she was not aware of who else would provide the same data.

She said that to change that the FCC would need to conduct a rulemaking to modify the current approach and Congress would have to modify statute to allow the FCC to use other sources in the context of satellite carriage. ■

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.