employee of a Los Angeles Spanish-language radio station owned by Univision, KSCA-FM/101.9, pulled a fast one on Nielsen -- or more precisely Arbitron, acquired by Nielsen in 2013 -- by infiltrating
the ratings firm’s portable people meter panel and attempting to skew its results in favor of his station, Nielsen acknowledged Monday.
The unnamed Univision programming
executive, who has since been fired, failed to disclose his connection with the media industry and succeeded in getting his household added to the PPM panel; he then tried to boost his station’s
ratings by frequently listening to it in the presence of the PPM device over a period of at least a year.
Nielsen previously removed another household from its Los Angeles PPM panel after
uncovering irregularities and announced that there would be a delay in the latest round of audience metrics for the L.A. market.
There are a total of 2,700 households in the Los
Angeles market’s PPM ratings sample, and two households are unlikely to have a significant impact on overall audience metrics. However, these incidents raise questions about Nielsen’s
procedures to screen out individuals with potential conflicts of interest from its ratings panels.
Nielsen hurried to reassure clients on Monday, stating: “Nielsen will conduct
an impact analysis extending back over the last year and will provide the market with this analysis. We will be taking a number of actions to minimize the risk of reoccurrence and ensure users of Los
Angeles ratings data are adequately and prominently notified.”
Univision Radio president Jose Valle stated: “Nielsen recently reached out to inform us that a
media-affiliated household had been identified in Los Angeles, and that it was connected to a Univision Radio employee from the KSCA station… We commenced an investigation and took immediate
action by terminating the employee based on our findings. We are cooperating fully with Nielsen and the MRC [Media Ratings Council] to ensure the industry has quality data. A radio station employee
being related to a Nielsen participant seriously undermines the industry and is unacceptable. We will continue to cooperate fully and ensure the efficacy of our internal training and compliance
programs, which will be ongoing across all Univision stations.”
Given the length of the deception, stretching back at least a year, it seems likely the KSCA employee infiltrated
the PPM panel when it was under Arbitron’s supervision. Nielsen announced its intention to acquire Arbitron in December 2012, but was only able to complete the deal after obtaining regulatory
approval from the FCC in September 2013.