Anti-‘LPM’ Group Continues Fight

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Opponents of “Local People Meters” haven’t been mollified by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s endorsement of the technology earlier this week or a research alliance that called for Latino scholars to study TV-viewership methodology.

Don’t Count Us Out, a coalition of African-American and Hispanic groups, is still charging that LPMs -- which Nielsen Media Research launched this year in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- undercount minority TV viewing.

The coalition is now alleging that the deployed LPMs are in fact underrepresenting African-American and Hispanic TV viewing because the “fault rates” -- or Nielsen homes where no viewing data are being recorded -- are running higher for minority homes than for the total sample population.

In light of such evidence, Don’t Count Us Out said it is “disappointed” that Jackson has nonetheless endorsed LPMs. The coalition went on to ask Jackson to support its proposal that the Federal Communications Commission regulate Nielsen.

Don’t Count Us Out expressed the same kind of reservations about Nielsen’s just-announced alliance with a Latino research institute. Under that initiative, nationally recognized Latino social scientists will evaluate and make recommendations regarding all aspects of the rating company’s audience measurement.

Nielsen is forming the research alliance -- the first of its kind in the company’s 54-year history -- with the William C. Velasquez Institute in Los Angeles. The WCVI, founded in 1985, is the research-and-policy arm of the Southwest Voter Registration Project, the largest and oldest nonpartisan Latino voter-participation group in the United States.

Don’t Count Us Out said that while the WCVI partnership “may lead to important improvements down the road, it does not excuse the damage being done to audiences of color right now.”

Nielsen households with several TV sets, and more people, tend to have higher fault rates, according to Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus, who added that African-American homes tend to skew that way.

Since Nielsen knows when a home is “faulting,” it contacts those households to find out why data aren’t being reported and to rectify the situation, he added.

“Homes do fault,” Loftus said. “We go back and try to fix what’s wrong.”

Loftus alleged that Don’t Count Us Out is biased because it has gotten funding from News Corp., and officials from Rupert Murdoch’s company have said that they were out to “destroy” Nielsen.

Nielsen has created a task force to study its audience measurement, and the task force’s sampling committee will meet Friday to discuss methodology problems relating to the LPMs.

Tom Herwitz, president of station operations for Fox Broadcasting Co., will be among those testifying.