Nielsen Rejects LPM Criticisms

Set to launch its local people meter TV ratings service in New York on Thursday, Nielsen Media Research is under withering attack from congressmen, several broadcasters (notably Fox) and a coalition of black and Hispanic groups who claim Nielsen’s numbers do not accurately count black and Latino viewers. Nielsen, owned by Adweek parent VNU, insists its sample is fine.

On March 22, News Corp. deputy COO Lachlan Murdoch said preliminary LPM results undercounted minorities. Three congressmen sent a letter to Nielsen president/CEO Susan Whiting echoing the concerns. Last week a black and Hispanic coalition, Don’t Count Us Out, protested at Nielsen’s New York office and launched ads in newspapers. As the House Commerce Committee considered holding hearings on the issue, the National Association of Broadcasters’ TV Board of Directors late last week called on Nielsen to delay the launch.

Nielsen said the sample is more representative than before and minority audiences are dispersed among more programs. “The LPM is picking up viewing that the diary doesn’t pick up,” said rep Jack Loftus, adding that the rollout would go as planned.

Since last summer, Fox has asked Nielsen to study how young blacks and Hispanics comply with instructions to push the LPM buttons to indicate viewing and for more details about those in its sample. “We didn’t get [answers],” said a Fox rep.

There have been some odd dropoffs in preliminary data. Ratings for Girlfriends and The Parkers, with heavy black or Hispanic viewership, dropped 41 and 56 percent. “I don’t know which [count] is more accurate,” said Lew Leone, vp/general manager of CBS flagship WCBS-TV.

But another station exec said shows like Judge Joe Brown, Montel Williams and Oprah saw a rise. “We can’t find anything wrong with [the sample],” the exec said.