Don’t Count Us Out Coalition Rallies to Raise Awareness of Nielsen’s Lack...

Don’t Count Us Out Coalition Rallies to Raise Awareness of Nielsen’s Lack of Action

Letter to Nielsen CEO Susan Whiting Urges an Independent Assessment of Local People Meters by Outside ExpertsAs June 3rd Deadline Approaches, Nielsen's New York Report Reveals More Troubling Data Suggesting New York City's Black and Latino Viewers Are Under Counted



New York, NY–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – BUSINESS WIRE)–May 21, 2004–Today, the Don’t Count Us Out Coalition gathered in front of the headquarters of Nielsen Media Research to release a letter to Nielsen CEO Susan Whiting, which states that to date, Nielsen has rejected the Don’t Count Us Out Coalition’s repeated requests for a delay in the implementation of Local People Meters (LPMs) in New York, or any market until an independent assessment has been conducted. As the June 3rd deadline approaches for Nielsen’s stated launch of LPMs in New York City, Nielsen has yet to provide any data or evidence that it has identified and addressed the cause of significant under counting of minority viewers in its tests. The letter to Susan Whiting, dated May 19th, was signed by Paul T. Williams, President, 100 Black Men of New York and Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, President, the Hispanic Federation.

“This is a fundamental issue of fairness, corporate transparency and accuracy,” said Paul Williams, CEO of 100 Black Men. “Nielsen must make the investment in time and resources to ensure that its rating system properly captures the viewing patterns of the entire market. Instead of focusing on June 3rd to launch in New York, Nielsen should be focusing its full attention and resources on identifying and fixing the problem before rolling this system out in any diverse urban market.”

In the face of widespread public outcry and hearings held by federal and state elected officials, last week, Nielsen executives released a report on LPMs from its March test which they assert is proof that they are making progress in fixing local people meters in New York. To date, however, Nielsen has repeatedly refused to release the underlying data or otherwise provide evidence that its local people meter ratings system now accurately counts Black and Latino viewers in New York City.

“We remain deeply troubled by Nielsen’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for its flawed local people meters,” said Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, President of the Hispanic Federation. “We have consistently pledged our willingness to work with Nielsen to find a solution that addresses the under count of Black and Latino viewers in their ratings system. Unfortunately, Nielsen has not acted as a responsible corporate citizen in this matter.”

In raising the Coalition’s concerns, the letter states:

“To date, we have not been privy to March LPM test data and have not received any valid explanation from Nielsen about why there was a significant change in numbers from one month to the other. As such, we still do not know whether the ‘people meters’ are now accurately tracking the viewing patterns of all New York City viewers.”

Despite overwhelming evidence that Local People Meters (LPMs) under count African American and Latino viewers, Nielsen Media Research previously disclosed its plan to roll out LPMs in New York. During a sample test of New York City LPMs conducted by Nielsen in February 2004, top-rated programs among African American and Latino viewers were under counted by Local People Meters by as much as 25%. During the test, several programs experienced an unexplained drop in viewership by more than 60% compared to Nielsen’s current system. At a New York City Council hearing held on April 19, 2004, when pressed for explanation by several City Council Members, Nielsen executives were unable to explain the source or reasoning behind the dramatic shift in ratings of minority programming.

The Don’t Count Us Out letter to Susan Whiting calls on Nielsen Media research to agree to three specific requests:

i. “Defer rollout of LPMs in local markets to December 1, 2004.

ii. Working with the Coalition, requisition a truly independent assessment of LPMs by outside experts.

iii. Acknowledge to America’s viewing public, particularly to Black and Latino households (who Nielsen now conceded have in fact been under counted by your existing ratings system), that as a matter of sound judgment and good corporate citizenship, Nielsen will go the ‘extra mile’ to ensure that the new proposed LPM system is fair and accurate.”

“Nielsen’s March report raises more questions about the accuracy and fairness of local people meters than it answers,” said Coalition member Alex Nogales, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Task Force. “It is clear that Nielsen’s own data confirms that local people meters are in need of independent assessment and greater refinement before use in diverse urban markets like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.”

After reviewing Nielsen’s report on the status of its March test of LPMs, the Don’t Count Us Out Coalition identified several troubling issues raised by Nielsen’s report, including:

— Nielsen has never publicly released any study that carefully examines whether or not there are any differences in how LPMs are used based on age, sex, race or ethnic background.

— Nielsen’s new ratings system has no metric for measuring usage of SAP (simultaneous Spanish-language translations that are available on some English-language programming).

— Nielsen recruits households based on Latino surnames. This process immediately disqualifies Latino households who have been in the United States for a long time and may have non-Latino names.

— Nielsen addresses the startling declines in ratings witnessed by the top-rated shows among African American viewers by arguing that the same declines were seen among many programs with predominantly white audiences. However, Nielsen compares underperforming shows like American Model 2, Joan of Arcadia, and Jag to The Parkers, the highest rated show among African Americans in the country.(See attached for detailed analysis of Nielsen’s March LPM NY Report)

“Under these circumstances, it is irresponsible and unacceptable for Nielsen Media Research to move forward with local people meters in New York, or any diverse urban market,” said Paul Williams. “That Nielsen has refused to work with our coalition unfortunately suggests that Nielsen is not prepared to address this problem in an equitable manner necessary to instill public confidence in their ratings system.”

The Don’t Count Us Out Coalition was formed by leading community and grassroots leaders to raise public awareness of Nielsen Media Research’s systemic under counting of minority viewers, and its potential to lead to the cancellation of numerous programs geared toward African American and Latino viewers, as well as impacting negatively on Spanish-speaking programming. The issue of flawed Nielsen local people meters has spread to other diverse urban cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago, where Nielsen has previously postponed the launch of LPMs.




Don’t Count Us Out

Dana Baxter

212-253-0266, 917-439-3359


Nickie Jurado

212-253-0266, 732-648-9165


Ebony Shears

212-253-0266, 917-753-2311

Don’t Count Us Out Coalition Rallies to Raise Awareness of Nielsen’s Lack of Action