FTC: We Won’t Regulate Nielsen


The Federal Trade Commission said it isn’t its purview to set standards for accurate TV-audience measurement, and the industry can police itself.

FTC chairman Deborah Platt Majoras put forth her agency’s position in a letter to Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.), who was one of a group of legislators who had asked the commission to determine its authority over Nielsen Media Research.

The back-and-forth is part of an ongoing battle over Nielsen’s rollout of “Local People Meters” last year -- a move that’s been opposed by broadcasters such as News Corp. and the coalition of African-American and Hispanic groups called Don’t Count Us Out, which is getting financing from Murdoch.

LPM opponents claimed that the technology undercounts minority TV viewers -- a charge Nielsen denies.

Majoras said the “self-regulatory” approach, in terms of TV ratings, is “more prompt, flexible and effective than government regulation.” The FTC also found that Nielsen hasn’t misrepresented its LPM system, and that Nielsen’s “sophisticated” clients can evaluate its viewership data.

Nielsen lauded the FTC’s decision to stay out of the TV-ratings business, but Don’t Count Us Out wasn’t pleased.

“A fair and accurate ratings system is a vital public interest that is not being served by the Nielsen monopoly,” Don’t Count Us Out executive director Cynthia Rotunno said in a prepared statement. “We are disappointed, but not surprised, by the FTC’s response.”

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) -- who led the legislators who were asking the FTC to look into Nielsen -- wrote a letter in response to Majoras.

Expressing disappointment over the FTC’s decision, he said, “I will not hesitate to introduce new legislation [regarding Nielsen] should the evidence indicate that it would be in the public interest to do so.”