Four New York City councilmen held a press conference outside of Nielsen Media Research’s headquarters in the city Wednesday to “denounce” Thursday’s rollout of “Local People Meters,” with one council member urging Nielsen homes to send their meters back to the ratings service.
Also Wednesday, a coalition of black and Hispanic groups, Don’t Count Us Out, threatened to pursue legal action against Nielsen over the launch of the controversial meters. The group has also reinstated its print-ad campaign against Nielsen.
“This is a defining moment” in how minority TV viewership is measured well into the future, and “we can’t afford to let it go,” said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which is part of Don’t Count Us Out.
Don’t Count Us Out is considering lodging a civil suit against Nielsen under California’s Unfair Business Practice Law, which is a consumer-protection statute, and possibly pursuing a federal antitrust suit and civil fraud suit, as well, Nogales said.
“We feel that we have very solid grounds,” he added. “They’re abusing the public trust.”
Don’t Count Us Out may even try to get a restraining order to stop Thursday’s debut of the LPMs in New York, according to Nogales.
In Manhattan, the council members, led by Hiram Monserrate, appeared and called for a halt to the deployment of the LPMs. Monserrate is co-chair of the council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.
“Our motives are very simple: We want our people counted,” he said.
Councilman Larry Seabrook also urged households that have Nielsen meters to take them out and send them back to the rating service, and not continue “to be part of a perpetrated fraud” against the people.
“All I can say to Nielsen is: Shame on you, shame on you for using your ‘tricknology’ against the deceived people in America,” Seabrook said.
Two other councilmen, Charles Barron and Joel Rivera, also spoke and denounced the LPM launch.
“This is racism at its rawest,” Barron said. “Nielsen should be ashamed of itself.”
The councilmen said they are concerned that if ratings drop for broadcast shows that are popular with minorities due to the deployment of LPMs, those shows will lose advertisers -- and get canceled.
In a statement Wednesday, Nielsen said it has met with more than 100 community and political leaders and “conclusively demonstrated to them that African Americans and Latinos are fully represented in our local and national People Meter samples.”
Nielsen accused Don’t Count Us Out and its ad campaign of being part of “a campaign of inaccuracies and distortions … clearly financed by certain corporate interests.” The ratings service has charged that News Corp., which opposes LPMs, is behind the push against the new system.
During his press conference, Monserrate denied that he or anyone else is being used or influenced by outsiders.
Earlier this week, Nielsen said it plans to simultaneously operate LPMs and its old Meter/Diary system for three months as a transition period during which either set of data can be used commercially.
Nielsen’s decision to move ahead with its LPM rollout without accreditation from the Media Ratings Council, which denied its approval last week, brought a new round of criticism from Don’t Count Us Out, as well as from Univision Communications Inc.
In contrast, three networks that target African Americans -- Black Entertainment Television, TV One and Major Broadcasting Cable Network -- have come out in support of the LPMs.
Also on Wednesday, CBS issued a statement urging Nielsen to delay its LPM implementation in not only New York, but Los Angeles and Chicago.
"Nielsen's continued adherence to an overly aggressive, self-imposed timetable for this conversion -- in the face of increasing evidence that these new services do not yet meet industry and community standards -- can only be detrimental to its eventual effectiveness," CBS said.