Court clears L.A. rollout of Meters

Evidence does not find flaw in system

Nielsen Media Research is free to proceed with plans to introduce its new Local People Meter television ratings system in the Los Angeles area next week after a judge denied the Univision Television Group’s bid for a delay.

Univision, the largest U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster, claims Nielsen’s People Meter system undercounts minority viewers. Nielsen’s viewer ratings are used to set advertising rates.

Univision’s “evidence only exhibits some public and expert disapproval of the system,” said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen Czuleger in denying the request for a preliminary injunction. “This evidence does not show the system is flawed.”

Major television networks have complained about the new system and earlier this week, Sens. Barbara Boxer, a (D-California) and Conrad Burns, (R-Montana), said they will hold congressional hearings on the controversy.

Nielsen introduced the new counting system last month in New York and plans to add San Francisco and Chicago later this year. Univision claims in its suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that the system shows “dramatic declines” in ratings for Spanish-language viewing in general and Univision in particular.

Michael Camunez, a lawyer for Univision, said the company intends to proceed to trial on the merits of its claims. There isn’t a “realistic chance” that an appeals court could rule on the request for an injunction before the system debuts July 8, he said. A status conference in the case is scheduled for Aug. 9.

Community question

“This is not just about Univision,” Camunez said after the ruling. “Forty two percent of this community is Spanish speaking.”

The change involves replacing paper diaries with the meters, which Nielsen has used since 1987 to gather national TV ratings. Nielsen says the Local People Meters are more accurate than the paper diaries.

Univision’s complaint is with the composition of the Los Angeles households selected by Nielsen, saying there are too few people who speak Spanish predominately at home and not enough Hispanic families in which the head is in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic preferred by advertisers.

Sour grapes?

Larry Feldman, a lawyer for Nielsen, said the company’s 50-year-old sampling methodology hasn’t changed with the new system and Univision just doesn’t like the results for its channels.

In a statement, Nielsen said: “Our Local People Meter samples are more representative of the diverse groups that make up our communities than the samples for the current ratings system. They do a better job of tracking what all groups are really watching, and thus create more real opportunities for producers, actors and programmers from communities of color.”

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