Tribune Broadcasting President Patrick J. Mullen today urged a United States Senate panel to enact legislation which would require that any ratings measurement system be accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC) before it is commercially introduced in a market.
The head of Tribune’s 26 television station group told the Senate Commerce Committee that television ratings play a crucial role in determining the viability of the free over the air television industry, and that reliable audience measurement is critical to the nation as a whole.
“Our stations get a report card every morning from Nielsen,” said Mullen. “They determine the value of our advertising. This in turn determines how much money can be invested in new and better programming, and in new digital technology. Ratings also determine which programs remain on the air, and which ones will be taken off for apparent lack of viewer interest. I regret to say that the measurement system we have today in the largest television markets is not worthy of public trust.”
In the past year, Nielsen has deployed a new ratings system called Local People Meter (LPM) service in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, after its first introduction in Boston. During his testimony, Mullen argued that Nielsen’s LPM service is plagued by sampling defects, and regularly under-represents young men, African-Americans and Hispanics.
“On the average day in New York, for the week ending July 10th, the viewing choices of nearly one-third of the Black and Hispanic men ages 18 to 34 in the LPM sample were not reflected in the ratings,” said Mullen. “Chicago sample data for the week ending July 10th show that almost one-third of the 443 African-Americans installed in the sample were not ‘in tab’”meaning their television viewing was not counted in the ratings.”
S. 1372, the recently-proposed FAIR Ratings Act being considered by the Senate, would require Media Rating Council accreditation before any ratings measurement system is commercially introduced in a market. Established in 1964, the Media Rating Council is a non-profit organization whose members include representatives of broadcast TV and radio, cable television, print, advertisers, ad agencies, and Internet constituencies. Mullen said the bill would ensure reliable and statistically valid audience measurement without any government oversight or expense, while encouraging innovation and new technology.
In May, Tribune and 17 other broadcast companies asked Nielsen to delay the deployment of LPM service in other markets until the Media Rating Council deemed the system reliable in markets where it was already being used. Nielsen rejected the industry’s proposal. LPM service has yet to receive full MRC accreditation in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.
A full text of Mullen’s testimony will be posted on the Tribune Company website at www.tribune.com later today.