Don’t Count Us Out Sets Ad Campaign

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Don’t Count Us Out, the coalition of African-American and Hispanic groups opposed to “Local People Meters,” is kicking off a new ad campaign timed to coincide with the rollout of the new Nielsen Media Research technology in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., officials said Monday.

The coalition will run print ads in Roll Call in Washington; in local newspapers that serve black and Hispanic communities affected by LPMs; and in trade publications serving the TV and ad industries.

The group -- which is celebrating its one-year anniversary -- declined to say how much it will spend on the new ad campaign, which will also have an online component.

In a conference call with reporters, members of Don’t Count Us Out -- which is getting financing from News Corp. -- also said they will continue to lobby for some kind of government regulation of Nielsen’s audience measurement. The coalition is stepping up its outreach to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“We’re going to continue our fight in the issue of undercounting minorities until there is meaningful oversight of the TV-ratings system,” said Cynthia Jasso Rotunno, executive director of Don’t Count Us Out.

The coalition -- which specifically alleges that the new LPMs underrepresent minority audiences -- is revving up its campaign to convince Congress to pass legislation to regulate or monitor Nielsen’s ratings, according to Josh Lahey, campaign manager for Don’t Count Us Out.

That effort will continue even though the Federal Trade Commission last week refused a request that it enter the fray, essentially saying that it wasn’t its place to regulate Nielsen.

As part of its campaign, Don’t Count Us Out will contact congressmen from all 10 DMAs where LPMs have been or are about to be launched, including Philadelphia and Washington; talk with members of the congressional African-American, Hispanic and Asia-Pacific caucuses; and target members of “the relevant” congressional committees, like Energy and Commerce, Judiciary and Government Reform.

“This is about television ratings and nothing else,” Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said. “It is about better, more accurate measurement of what people are watching on television, and that is exactly what Nielsen trying to do.”

Don’t Count Us Out members also maintained that their criticism of Nielsen’s methodology and sample size led the ratings service to appoint a special task force, and that the task force made recommendations that mirrored those of the coalition. But someone needs to monitor Nielsen to make sure it abides by the task force’s recommendations, Rotunno said.

Members of the group, including former Census Monitoring Board co-chair Gilbert Casellas, played down the support that News Corp. has provided for Don’t Count Us Out. Nielsen’s alleged undercounting of minority TV viewership has long been a concern of black, Hispanic and Asian communities, so raising the issue of News Corp.’s support of the coalition is a “red herring,” according to Casellas.

“The issue of undercount still remains, the impact that it has on communities, so the fact that it has an impact on Fox and its programming, and that their interests coincide with ours, well, that’s wonderful, but it doesn’t remove the issue of undercounting and the concerns that we’ve raised,” he added.

As for the importance of minority TV audiences being accurately tracked, Casellas said, “If you don’t count, you don’t get counted -- that’s what we said in the census.”

Don’t Count Us Out will create a Web site, “The Recommendation Watch,” linked to the group’s own home page (www.dontcountusout.com) to track whether Nielsen implements the task force’s suggestions.

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