'LPMs' Retain Conditional Approval

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The Media Ratings Council has voted to continue the conditional accreditation of Nielsen Media Research's new "Local People Meters" in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

It could have voted to deny accreditation, granted full accreditation, or kept the status quo for any one or all of the markets, which means conditional approval pending while Nielsen continues to address MRC concerns.

The meters, which Nielsen is rolling out in major markets, have been the center of much controversy due to drops in ratings for minority viewing to some stations. Opponents of the new meters -- which have included minority groups, legislators, ad types and broadcasters with declining ratings -- have argued that they undercount minorities.

Just last week, Viacom Co-President Les Moonves complained at the critics tour in L.A.about declines in UPN minority ratings and said the net was checking into whether there were sampling problems. Fox has also been a vocal critic of the meters.

Nielsen, while conceding some sampling problems, which it is addressing, argues that the devices are simply better tracking the movement of minorities to other media.

When it first granted the conditional OK (or failed to grant full accreditation, depending on how you look at it), MRC, the industry's own ratings methodology watchdog group, promised to revisit that status at the beginning of 2005.

"We look at certain performance metrics," MRC Executive director George Ivie told B&C, "and we didn't think Nielsen had achieved what we hoped for when we first granted conditional accreditation. They hadn't improved enough to extend full accreditation."

"I think the MRC wants to keep our feet to the fire, and wants continuous updates on a number of issues," said Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus. "This is how the voluntary accreditation  process works, and is an example of how the self-regulatory process works."

Ivie said the MRC would likely vote again in April or May, depending on Nielsen's updates.

Nielsen also has local people meters in Boston (the first market to get them), which are fully accredited, and in San Francisco (launched Sept. 30), where the MRC has yet to complete its initial audit.

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