Senate Considers Nielsen Oversight

Clients of Nielsen Media Research often point to deficiencies in the ratings company’s services. Advertisers and agencies complain of their inability to get commercial ratings. Broadcasters complain that Nielsen undercounts their audiences with the new local People Meter system.

Everybody complains that Nielsen is slow to respond to issues, largely because it is a monopoly. But despite all the complaints, there is no consensus, for now, that regulatory oversight of Nielsen would make the situation any better. In fact, it’s just the opposite, according to some industry executives reacting to last week’s Senate hearing on a proposal to require Nielsen to get Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation for any new ratings service before going to market. Currently an industry group, the MRC would be given legal authority under the proposal.

“Nielsen has a lot of things to fix, and if the government gets involved, they’re not going to make progress on anything,” said a source at a top-10 media agency.

Both the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies oppose the legislation and are in favor of industry “self-regulation.”

Kathy Crawford, president, local broadcast, MindShare, testified against the proposed bill. She said Nielsen is not perfect, but the MRC is stacked in favor of broadcasters. Broadcasters are divided on the issue. Some, such as Fox and Tribune, favor government oversight; others, such as CBS, agree that self-regulation is the better remedy.

David Poltrack, evp, research and planning, CBS, said he was heartened last week by Nielsen’s commitment to voluntarily submitting new ratings services to the MRC auditing process before taking them public. “That’s preferable to government intervention,” he said.