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Jesse Jackson Leads Charge Against FAIR Ratings Act

Jul 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Two days before the Senate Commerce Committee was to hear testimony on a proposal to legislate oversight of audience measurement, individuals and organizations took sides on the issue.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., president of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, led the list of African American community and TV industry leaders who signed a letter arguing that the FAIR Ratings Act, introduced July 1 by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., would “severely disadvantage television programmers, businesses, advertisers and audiences of color.”

The Burns bill requires that ratings services be accredited by the Media Rating Council before the data can be sold, a new rallying cry for station groups and broadcast networks who want to slow the rollout of Nielsen Media Research’s Local People Meter service. The critics have charged that the LPM service undercounts African American and Hispanic viewership.

However, the letter to Sen. Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and co-Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, argued that the Burns bill “would be especially harmful to smaller networks, stations and advertising agencies — particularly those owned and/or operated by Latinos. Because of the way Nielsen’s local Spanish-language ratings are assembled, they cannot be accredited under the MRC’s rules. The large cost of meeting the MRC’s rules would make it impossible for local Spanish-language stations to afford an MRC-accredited service. This would have a serious economic impact for station owners, advertisers, and advertising agencies in the Latino Community.”

In addition to Rev. Jackson, the letter was signed by Warrington Hudlin, the independent filmmaker recently named president of BET Entertainment; BET President and Chief Operating Officer Debra Lee; TV One President and CEO Johnathan Rodgers; Central City Productions founder, Chairman and CEO Don Jackson; Uniworld Group Chairman and CEO Byron Lewis; and Potomac Coalition Chairman Lawrence Parks.

Meanwhile, erinMedia, which is developing its own research methodology and which filed a lawsuit in June seeking to invalidate Nielsen’s contracts, lined up behind the Burns bill. erinMedia CEO and Chairman Frank Maggio wrote in a letter to Sen. Burns and co-sponsor Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., that Nielsen’s monopoly status means there are not the usual checks and balances generated by competition.