Ratings Coalition Heavies-Up on Hill


The Don't Count Us Out Coalition is heavying up in Washington, D.C., to push for more oversight of Nielsen Media Research.

The coalition was launched to take aim at Nielsen's rollout of Local People Meters and their alleged undercounting of minorities

The group is now adding an executive director and bringing back an adviser, both of whom are based in Washington.

Executive Director Cynthia Jasso-Rotunno has joined full time and comes from Issue Dynamics, a public affairs and Internet consulting firm. She and adviser, Minyon Moore, will focus both on legislative strategy and on the Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia markets, where Nielsen will roll out its next Local People Meters in June.

Moore , who worked on the coalition's campaign against the New York launch last Spring, is returning as a senior consultant. Moore is former COO of the DNC and was an advisor in the Clinton White House.

Both will be working the Hill, where the TV ratings issue has one champion of sorts in Republican Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.). Burns held hearings on the meters last year and has made "TV ratings fairness" one of his legislative priorities for the year.

According to Lahey, Burns has yet to hear back from FTC Chairman Deborah Majoras on whether the FTC has jurisdiction over Nielsen.

The meters have been criticized for undercounting black, Hispanic and Asian viewing. Nielsen is addressing problems with sampling--users correctly recording their information--but critics continue to push for greater oversight than the current Media Ratings Council (MRC) accreditation process.

Nielsen also argues that the meters are better counting the flight of minorities to other outlets rather than simply undercounting them.

The Nielsen client-backed MRC has yet to grant full accreditation to the majority of the company's Local People Meter markets.

Coalition Campaign manager Josh Lahey says the group would be amenable to some stronger form of self-regulation than the MRC, but sees the FTC as the most logical place for government oversight.

Nielsen two weeks ago committed $2.5 million to research and development of new and better ratings technologies with input from clients.