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MRC Wants ‘Code of Conduct’ for Nielsen

1/28/2005 7:25 AM Eastern

The Media Ratings Council this week asked the Federal Trade Commission for some reforms of the TV-audience-ratings system, in part asking regulators to sign off on establishing a voluntary code of conduct for Nielsen Media Research.

In its letter, dated Thursday, the MRC’s board of directors in part asked the FTC to reaffirm the council’s role in terms of offering its imprimatur for TV measurement.

The missive also recommended that the FTC reaffirm Nielsen’s “consent” to the MRC accreditation process, and that the MRC -- in coordination with the FTC and Congress -- establish a voluntary code of conduct for Nielsen. That code would establish ground rules for the MRC accreditation process.

The letter was sent to both FTC chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.). Burns has been looking into the “Local People Meter” controversy.

Earlier in the week, the MRC decided to continue the conditional accreditation it previously granted Nielsen for controversial LPMs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Don’t Count Us Out -- a coalition of African-American and Hispanic groups opposed to the LPMs -- lauded the MRC for its letter.

“For the past year, Don’t Count Us Out has been fighting for reform that would ensure that Nielsen is accountable to the viewing public,” Josh Lahey, the group’s campaign manager, said in a prepared statement. “This action by the MRC shows that we are not alone.”

The MRC never sent Nielsen a copy of its letter, according to Jack Loftus, a spokesman for the ratings service. But from descriptions of the letter’s content, he said he wasn’t sure what the MRC was actually seeking from the FTC.

In addition, Nielsen is already voluntarily cooperating with the MRC’s accreditation process, so Loftus said he doesn’t understand why the MRC wants to involve the FTC and Congress in that process.

“What is it Congress and the FTC should do?” Loftus asked. “The MRC holds our feet to the fire. It’s an excellent example of industry self-regulation.”

The MRC couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

But in its letter, the MRC said, “A diverse group of users of media-measurement data” were exploring creating an industry-funded consortium to study the effectiveness of measurement methodologies.

September