News Corp. to Nielsen: Suspend ‘LPMs’

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News Corp. has asked Nielsen Media Research to suspend its rollout of “Local People Meters” and called for an independent authority to be created to set standards for accuracy in TV ratings.

Tom Herwitz, president of station operations for Fox Television Stations, made those recommendations, among others, during a meeting of a special task force created to study Nielsen’s TV measurement.

During Friday’s gathering of the task force’s sampling committee, Herwitz noted that Nielsen launched its controversial LPMs in New York without getting accreditation from the Media Rating Council.

“That’s like a teen-ager going for a driver’s license, failing the test and then taking the car on the road anyway,” he added.

He and Don’t Count Us Out, an anti-LPM coalition of African-American and Hispanic groups that has received funding from News Corp., are also complaining that so-called fault rates -- Nielsen households not reporting any data -- are running higher for African-American homes than for the general LPM sample.

As a result, Herwitz asked that Nielsen conduct a study of this issue of variable fault rates and whether Arbitron Inc.’s new “Passive People Meter” can help to solve this problem. He also asked for the new oversight authority to be established.

Needless to say, Nielsen didn’t support any of Herwitz’s recommendations.

“We will not suspend a superior measurement service to satisfy Fox’s financial interests,” Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said. “It is beyond bizarre that Fox would want more government regulation after lobbying so hard for so long for less regulation of its media empire.”

He added, “Letting the Fox into the henhouse just makes for happy Foxes. Nielsen’s job is to report the truth -- what people are really watching on television. Some folks just can’t handle the truth.”

Nielsen is slated to deploy LPMs later this month in San Francisco.

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