Fox Takes Aim at MRC


At a Friday Sampling Subcommittee meeting of the task force looking into Nielsen Media Research's "People Meters," Fox president of station operations Tom Herwitz will call for either giving the Media Rating Council more authority to oversee and/or sanction Nielsen or replacing it with a another oversight mechanism.

The council, an industry-backed ratings watchdog group, was created some 40 years ago at the behest of Congress.

Herwitz is particularly concerned that the council's withholding of accreditation for Nielsen's People Meters in top market New York did not dissuade, and lacked the power to prevent, the company from launching the service there.

Fox and others complain the meters undercount minorities, including viewing to Fox stations in New York, while Nielsen says it simply more accurately charts those viewers' flight to other media, including cable.

"We at Fox believe it is time for real reform," Herwitz planned to say, according to testimony supplied to B&C. "While we are pleased to have the opportunity to talk about the details of the LPM system and look forward to working with the Task Force on that issue, it is clear that more fundamental change is necessary. In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of an accurate and fair rating system there must be a mechanism for oversight over Nielsen.

'Whether it be through a strengthened MRC, the FTC, the FCC or a new institution designed specifically to fulfill this oversight function, it is imperative to put in place a regular process for reviewing Nielsen’s data collection and, if necessary, imposing sanctions or compelling action to ensure that standards are maintained," he said.