Ill. Reps.: Don’t Regulate TV Ratings

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Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) Thursday sent a joint letter to Congress warning that the government shouldn’t try to regulate TV ratings.

The letter came in response to an effort by Don’t Count Us Out, a coalition of African-American and Hispanic groups, and several lawmakers to have the Federal Trade Commission look into regulating TV ratings and Nielsen Media Research. The coalition has been a vocal critic of Nielsen’s new “Local People Meter” system.

“Should it be the federal government’s responsibility to inform Americans that American Idol was last week’s No. 1 show in its time slot?” Burton and Jackson wrote. “Would it truly be a wise use of taxpayer dollars to create a ‘Federal Department of Television Advertising’ just to set the price for Super Bowl advertising? We think not.”

In their one-page letter, Burton and Jackson also said, “We believe federal regulation of the industry is an unnecessary government intrusion into the private sector that could potentially have a damaging effect on ratings accuracy by slowing down innovation at a tie of rapid change in entertainment-viewing habits.”

Don’t Count Us Out issued a response to the Burton-Jackson letter, reiterating its desire for the FTC to clarify its authority on the TV-ratings issue.

“We do believe a fair and accurate ratings system is a vital public interest and, as Congress has asserted since the Harris Commission of the 1960s, there is a role for the federal government in assuring the integrity of that system,” Don’t Count Us Out campaign manager Josh Lahey said in a prepared statement.