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Nielsen Appoints Task Force to Study Rating System

Nielsen Media Research recently selected 11 civic and business leaders to serve on a task force that aims to ensure all television viewers are equally represented in its ratings system.

Civil rights groups have criticized the new system--the Local People Meter (LPM)--for undercounting minorities. LPM measures local viewing patterns electronically rather than with handwritten records that have been used since 1987.

"It is important to determine the best possible method to accurately reflect the choices being made by media audiences, and particularly the Black and Latino viewers who have been historically undercounted," Congressman Charles B. Rangel said, who helped select the panel.

Former Illinois Congresswoman Cardiss Collins--the first African-American woman to represent a Midwest Congressional district--will chair the task force. Participants include leaders from The Advertising Research Foundation, NAACP, Latin Business Association, Conde Nast, National Puerto-Rican Coalition and The Amsterdam News, among others.

Nielsen has used people meters to measure daily national TV viewing habits according to age, gender and ethnicity but only recently started using the system to measure local ratings.

The Media Rating Council (MRC)--an independent body that accredits the ratings services provided by Nielsen--has not yet endorsed the LPM but discourages media companies from launching campaigns against the service, which was introduced to New York this month.

On a related front, a week after severely criticizing Nielsen's plans to roll out the people meters, Univision Communications, the nation's leading Spanish language broadcaster, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Nielsen Media Research, seeking to stop Nielsen's planned July 8 launch of the people meters in Los Angeles. Univision--and groups represented by the Don't Count Us Out Coalition--intends to delay the release of the new technology until the sampling methodologies are certain to include all minority audiences, including those who do not speak English at home.