Herwitz Calls for Halt to LPM Rollout

Sep 10, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Nielsen Media Research should suspend the rollout of its new Local People Meter TV ratings service.

That was what Tom Herwitz, president of station operations for Fox Television Stations, suggested to the task force looking into the new audience measurement methodology during a fact-finding hearing in New York last week.

He told a committee of the Task Force on Television Measurement that the LPMs should not be used until there is resolution of issues such as fault rates, racial identification and use of Nielsen’s button-pushing technology in some demographic and ethnic groups.

The Fox stations and parent News Corp. have been the most aggressive in opposing LPMs-which they claim undercount Hispanic and African American audiences-during the meters’ deployments this summer in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Nielsen does not agree, spokesman Jack Loftus said. “Obviously, Fox is in this for the publicity,” Mr. Loftus said. “We will not suspend what is clearly a superior measurement service to satisfy Fox’s financial interests.”

Mr. Herwitz, the only person to go public with his testimony, also took aim at the watchdog Media Rating Council, which recently declined again to accredit LPMs in New York but has given conditional accreditation in Los Angeles. The MRC, said Mr. Herwitz, “has proven to be inadequate.”

The Fox executive called for “establishment of a new independent oversight authority invested with the power to set standards for accuracy in television ratings and the ability to enforce those standards.”

MRC executive director George Ivie said he does not believe another watchdog organization is needed. “We have all the players at the table. We have a comprehensive and thorough audit and we evaluate it well. We do everything we need to do,” said Mr. Ivie, who cautions that to toughen standards for Nielsen, which is a monopoly, would make it more difficult for new services and technologies to break into the business.

Mr. 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. Letting the Fox into the hen house just makes for happy Foxes. Nielsen’s job is to report the truth, what people are really watching on television.

“We are confident, however, that the Independent task force will conduct a full and fair evaluation of the measurement system and come to its own conclusions and make its own recommendations. We think that’s a more constructive way to go.”