|A Diverse Coalition Launches The Don't Count Us Out / Queremos Ser Contados! Campaign To Encourage New Yorkers to Get Involved!|
Today, distinguished leaders of some of New York City's most respected African American and Latino civic organizations convened at the offices of Nielsen Media Research to announce the formation of the Don't Count Us Out / Queremos Ser Contados! Coalition to stop the company from undercounting minority viewers in New York City. The diverse assembly of organizations announced the kick-off of a grassroots campaign to educate New York City about Nielsen's continued undercounting of minority viewers.
"Nielsen has a history of undercounting minorities--they even admitted in 2000 to undercounting Spanish-speaking households in New York City by 300,000!" said Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, President of the Hispanic Federation. "Now this company has an opportunity to do the right thing, and they refuse. Nielsen has not acted as a responsible corporate citizen, so our community has come together and gathered here to day to tell Nielsen in unequivocal terms, "Don't Count Us Out!"
Today's announcement follows a week of activity in which leading Congressional, New York State and New York City lawmakers focused attention on the issue by calling on Nielsen to postpone its planned April 8th roll-out of local people meter (LPM) technology in the New York TV market:
-- On Thursday, March 25th, Representatives Hilda L. Solis (CA-32), a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee and John D. Dingell, Ranking Democratic Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, sent a letter to Susan Whiting, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nielsen Media Research, expressing concern about the accuracy of Nielsen Media Research's accounting of Latino television viewership;
-- On Sunday, March 28th , Adriano Espaillat, Chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Legislative Caucus and Peter Rivera, Chair of the New York State Puerto Rican/Hispanic Legislative Task Force led state legislators in a condemnation of Nielsen's decision to introduce LPMs in New York City; and
-- On Monday, March 29th, Hiram Monserrate, co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, and Council Speaker Gifford Miller were joined by members of the City Council to announce the introduction of a resolution calling on Nielsen to delay the introduction of LPMs in New York City until the company can ensure the fair and accurate counting of New York City's diverse viewers.
"How ironic that Nielsen's headquarters are located right here in New York City, and yet Nielsen has demonstrated a lack of understanding of the realities of the New York media market," said Paul Williams, President, 100 Black Men of New York. "Since Nielsen has been unable or unwilling to learn, we are launching a broad based public education campaign so the people of New York can educate them!"
As it prepares to roll out LPMs in New York City, the nation's largest and most ethnically diverse TV market with more than 7.3 million TV homes, Nielsen Media Research has yet to undertake a study to determine the cause of its systemic flaws in accurately tracking minority viewing. The Don't Count Us Out/Queremos Ser Contados! Coalition was formed in response to Nielsen's inaction in the face of a series of incidents in which its ratings resulted in an undercounting of minority viewers:
-- In 2000, Nielsen Officials Admitted To Undercounting 300,000 Hispanic Households in New York (New York Times, 7/17/00)
-- Nielsen Sued By African American Television Producer For Inaccurate and Unreliable Ratings (Electronic Media, 5/6/01)
Despite overwhelming evidence that Local People Meters (LPMs) undercount African American and Latino viewers, Nielsen Media Research previously disclosed its plan to roll out LPMs in New York. During a sample test of New York City LPMs conducted by Nielsen in February 2004, top-rated programs among African American and Latino viewers were undercounted by Local People Meters by as much as 25%. During the test, several programs experienced an unexplained drop in viewership by more than 60% compared to Nielsen's current system.
Present at today's launch of the Don't Count Us Out / Queremos Ser Contados! Coalition were:
-- Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, President - Hispanic Federation
-- Hazel Dukes, State Chair - New York NAACP
-- Alex Nogales, President & CEO - National Hispanic Media Coalition (Nat'l HQ)
-- Paul Williams, President - 100 Black Men of New York
-- William Burgess, Chairman, National Minority Business Council
-- Rosita Romero, Executive Director - Dominican Women Development Center
-- Rev. Jacques DeGraff - NYC Clergy
-- Ana Lopez, Executive Director - Asociacion Benefica Father Bellini
-- Norman Siegel, former Executive Director - NYC Civil Liberties Union
-- Dennis De Leon, Executive Director - Latino Commission on AIDS
-- Richard Willis - Mozelle Entertainment Group/Harlem Arts Alliance
-- Alma Villegas, Executive Director - Musica Against Drugs, Inc.
-- Suleika Cabrera-Drinane, Executive Director - Institute for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly
-- Bertha Lewis, Executive Director - New York ACORN
-- Moises Perez, Executive Director - Alianza Dominicana
-- Society of the Educational Arts
-- Victor Morisete-Romero, Executive Director Asociacion Comunal de Dominicanos Progresistas
-- Rafael Grasso, Executive Director - Concerned Citizens of Queens
-- Teatro Circulo
-- Ann Marquez, Director of Communications - ASPIRA of New York
-- Manny Alfaro, Executive Director - Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA)
-- Gladys Rosenblum, Executive Director -Loisaida
-- Bob Law, Chairman - National Leadership Alliance
-- Rosalba Rolon, Executive Director - Pregones
-- Don Richards, Screen Actors Guild
"Nielsen may be a monopoly, but no corporation is above public accountability," said Hazel Dukes, State Chair of the New York NAACP. "This coalition has formed to make sure that Nielsen no longer continues to undercount minority viewers. We want Nielsen, especially its leadership, to hear us when we say, "Don't Count Us Out!"
Faced with similar concerns in other large cities, Nielsen has decided to delay the launch of LPMs in Los Angeles and Chicago. However, Nielsen's planned use of LPMs in New York effective April 8th directly threatens minority-oriented television programming, employment opportunities for minority producers, directors, actors, writers, and related businesses including advertising and television production.
Calling on Nielsen to address them immediately, leaders of the Don't Count Us Out / Queremos Ser Contados! Coalition cited several troubling issues involving LPMs:
-- Nielsen Media Research has itself recognized the flaws in LPM's as evidenced by its decision to delay the introduction of LPM's in the Los Angeles and Chicago media markets for the stated reason that these markets are extremely diverse.
-- Nielsen has decided to move forward with LPMs in the New York City media market, which is equally if not more diverse than any other media market in the country.
-- Nielsen's monopoly position obligates the company to ensure that its rating system fairly and accurately records the viewing choices of all viewers, regardless of race, ethnicity or national background.
-- The systemic undercounting of minority viewers by this flawed technology could result in severe consequences: Programming featuring minority entertainers could be perceived as losing significant audience share and be cancelled. Advertisers will no longer see a need to target their messages to minority consumers. The economic, social and cultural impact could be enormous.
The Don't Count Us Out / Queremos Ser Contados! Coalition seeks to educate the people of New York City on this critical issue and to encourage them to stop Nielsen from launching a flawed product that will damage New York City. Here's how interested citizens can take action:
1) Visit www.dontcountusout.com to sign the coalition's online petition; 2) Call and/or write to Nielsen Media Research directly: Ms. Susan Whiting President and CEO Nielsen Media Research 770 Broadway New York, New York 10003 646-654-8300 3) Complain to the Federal Communications Commission by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (225-5322); or 4) Complain to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).