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Hold That Apple: Nielsen Delays ‘LPM’ Launch

4/06/2004 7:28 AM Eastern

New York -- In response to a groundswell of criticism from the black and Hispanic communities, Nielsen Media Research is delaying the launch of "Local People Meters" here for two months, officials said Tuesday.

At a press conference here in Harlem, Nielsen and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) also said an ongoing task force was being formed to study ways to guarantee an accurate measurement of African-American and Latino viewers.

"All hell broke lose from minority communities," Rangel said in describing the events leading to Nielsen’s delay. "It is so important to the communities that we get an accurate report … I know your firm would want the reputation, as you have enjoyed in the past, to be even-handed and to be accurate in your reports. Now I’m satisfied that I’ll have at least a couple of months to figure this out."

Nielsen had been set to roll out LPMs in the New York DMA Thursday, but due to the controversy, that launch has been postponed until June 3.

The ratings-measurement company will use the extra time to meet with Big Apple politicians, minority groups and its own clients to address concerns and complaints about the LPMs, president and CEO Susan Whiting said at the press conference with Rangel, who said his office has been inundated with phone calls about the new meters.

"We wanted to take the time to address the many questions we received from community leaders and elected officials," Whiting said. "There simply wasn’t time to address all of those questions responsibly before our original launch date of April 8."

In the next few weeks, Nielsen plans "a very aggressive communications campaign so we can assure them that the service in New York is the service they deserve," according to Whiting.

As for the task force that’s being created, with Rangel’s help, Whiting said, "We want to make sure we have leaders from the community making sure we do represent people of color in the best possible way."

A long list of minority organizations and politicians -- including Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and the National Minority Business Council -- in the past few weeks have come out in opposition of the LPMs, claming that they are undercounting TV viewing by blacks and Hispanics.

Nielsen’s opponents also include the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, as well as a group called Don’t Count Us Out, which has been running full-page ads in New York newspapers voicing opposition to the LPMs.

In addition, News Corp. and the National Association of Broadcasters have called for a delay of the meters’ launch in New York.

Critics claimed that viewing of popular broadcast shows that have large black audiences has dropped as much as 60% with the LPMs. Nielsen contended that minority viewership isn’t being lost. Under the more accurate LPMs, that viewing is being more accurately reported, the ratings service contended.

Some of the "lost" viewing is actually going to cable networks, according to Whiting. "We have seen increases in viewing to a number of channels," she said.

There are also more blacks and Hispanics in the 800-home LPM sample in New York compared with the old metered-diary system, according to Whiting.

Nielsen has also pushed back LPM launches in Los Angeles and Chicago, but those delays were due to problems that are not present in the New York market, Whiting said.

September