July 23 2004

English/Spanish Language Rift Within Latino Media Community

A report released by a well-regarded Latino policy group concludes that Nielsen Media Research may in fact be undercounting Latino TV viewers and “certainly has” in the past.

The report, conducted by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI), which was commissioned by Nielsen and was intended to assuage criticism that Nielsen’s methods are biased against Latinos, came on the eve of Nielsen’s launch of its controversial local people meter system in Los Angeles. While the report largely debunks one conducted by opponents of the local people meter system — an independent study conducted by Rincon & Associates for the National Hispanic Media Coalition — it also concluded that the study was not “without merit.” Both reports reveal how incredibly complicated the field of media research is becoming due to the growing complexity of multicultural communities.

But the report from TRPI also challenged the objectivity of the Rincon report and its backers, asserting that they were not necessarily motivated by a desire to generate the most objective and accurate TV ratings of Latinos overall, but to advance the representation of the Latino community within the English-language TV programming industry. As such, the report signals a growing division between Spanish-language programmers such as Univision and NBC-owned Telemundo, and the actors, producers, writers and programmers represented by the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

“It is at least as much a part of the arsenal of many Latino advocates that is designed to improve access to mainstream media and all that comes with it, e.g., status, jobs and visibility, as it is a critique of Nielsen ratings,” concludes the report. It adds, “The long history of exclusion that Hispanics have experienced makes this approach understandable but should not be sufficient grounds for unsubstantiated (as opposed to legitimate) criticisms of the Nielsen methodology.”

The problem, said the TRPI authors, was that the coalition, an integral part of the News Corp.-backed anti-Nielsen group Don’t Count Us Out, is more interested in advancing the agenda of “Latino media elites” among English-language media outlets, than it is in getting an accurate representation of Latinos in the overall media community, including both Spanish- and English-language media.

That conclusion reveals how two different Latino-based Nielsen opponents — the coalition and Univision — are actually operating at cross-purposes. Univision is suing Nielsen on the grounds that its local people meter samples do not accurately represent Spanish-speaking Latinos — and that they over-represent Englishspeaking Latinos.

Despite those challenges, and a tremendous amount of local and national lobbying against it, Nielsen Wednesday confirmed plans to launch the new ratings system in Los Angeles today, and to stick to its dates for launching people meter systems in Chicago (August 5) and San Francisco (September 30).

Reprinted from Hispanic Ad.com, July 12, 2004

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