WASHINGTON — Under pressure from the nets and several lawmakers, Nielsen on Tuesday reversed its plan to roll out a new method of measuring New York TV auds out of concern that the company’s People Meters would seriously undercount black and Latino viewers.
One day before the local People Meter technology’s skedded launch date, Nielsen agreed to a delay until June 3 to allow time for a new task force to study ways to ensure that all people are counted accurately.
Rep. Charles Rangel, a senior New York Democrat and a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus, helped persuade Nielsen to postpone the rollout.
“There was such an uproar Nielsen would have difficulties getting people to participate if people thought they were being unfair and racist,” Rangel told Daily Variety.
Rangel and Nielsen prexy Susan Whiting announced their decision in a joint release Tuesday morning. The pair will work together to select industry and community leaders to serve on the new task force.
In addition to the task force, Nielsen with launch a public relations campaign explaining the benefits and technology involved in the local people meters to broadcast nets, lawmakers and community leaders who have expressed concern about the potential of drastically undercounting minority viewers.
Whiting defended the accuracy of the new system, explaining that Nielsen has used it to come up with national ratings since 1987 and insisting it will produce more precise and reliable information about black and Latino TV viewing habits. She acknowledged that the company acquiesced because of “widespread concern.”
“Out of respect for the elected officials and community leaders who have voiced concern about People Meters, we are rescheduling the launch in New York City so that we can fully answer all their inquiries,” she said in a statement.
In the last few weeks, the NAACP, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), several members of Congress and nearly 20 members of the New York City Council had urged Nielsen to delay the rollout.
Fox Television Stations Group chairman Lachlan Murdoch was particularly concerned because many of its shows have a large Latino audience.