Nielsen flap in Albany

Affil's books cooked; Ratings co. axes results

The Albany, N.Y., November Nielsen diaries have been thrown out because an employee from WXXA-TV, a Fox affiliate owned by Clear Channel Communications, apparently cooked the books in favor of WXXA.

Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said that one of the diaries was sent in from a household where an employee from WXXA lives. Loftus declined to name the WXXA employee. Station employee households are forbidden from filling out Nielsen diaries.

In a few days, Nielsen will issue a new Albany November book excluding the improper diary at a cost of several thousand dollars to the New York-based ratings company. Loftus said that Nielsen does not discuss potential legal action, but he intimated that Nielsen will not take legal or any other action against WXXA.

“It’s a Clear Channel station and they’re very good customers,” said Loftus. “The station is working with us. They’ve been very cooperative.”

The diary in question recorded improbable viewing patterns. It lists nine adult residents in the household and four adult visitors for the diary period, which was the final week of November. According to the diary, just about all these adults watched WXXA programming 24 hours a day.

WXXA general manager Dave D’Autuono did not return a call seeking comment. Loftus said that D’Autuono was apparently unaware that one of his employees had filled out the diary. According to Loftus, the employee in question said she was unaware that anyone in her household had participated in the diary survey.

Nielsen was notified about the problem by Albany CBS affiliate WGRB-TV, a Freedom Communications station. WGRB VP and general manager Doreen Wade said she will not take legal action against WXXA. Instead she focused her anger at Nielsen.

“Our goal was to get the book reissued,” said Wade. “We didn’t want to needlessly embarrass anyone. But this is what you get when you deal with a monopoly. Not only do we send Nielsen a big check each month, but nine times out of 10 when we complain about a book, they don’t do anything.”

Loftus said that this is the first time he can remember a local diary being contaminated to such an extent that it impacted the ratings and demographic results.

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