Tainted isle
TV ratings force
rerun by Nielsen

The revised report is unlikely
to alter KHON's dominance

Nielsen Media Research will reissue television ratings covering part of this year's "American Idol" run because the family member of a KHON-TV on-air employee broke the rules by filing out a Nielsen survey.

It is against the policies of Nielsen and most, if not all, broadcast outlets for industry professionals or their family members to fill out ratings surveys, which are called diaries. The prohibition is posted at and in the front of the booklet, which the employee's wife filled out.

Nielsen mails diaries to households, asking residents to record their viewing habits. Participants mail the diaries back to Nielsen. In this case, one of the diaries went to the home of a KHON employee, and a family member participated in the survey, a clear violation.

The error is not expected to drastically harm the station's ratings, but it steals from the glory of KHON's stellar ratings driven by the "American Idol" phenomenon.

"I think generally, people who work in the industry are aware that they shouldn't be involved in the survey," said Chuck Cotton, market manager for Clear Channel Communications Inc., which owns and operates seven Oahu radio stations.

KHON will foot the bill for redoing the ratings, said Rick Blangiardi, Hawaii market senior vice president for Emmis Communications Corp., which owns KHON and KGMB-TV.

It is the first time a ratings survey for Honolulu television or radio has been recalculated and reissued, according to local television and radio general managers. Nielsen officials could not be reached for comment.

"We're very concerned about the integrity of the process and can't afford to have our ethical standards compromised," Blangiardi said.

Blangiardi declined to identify the employee in question, who has been suspended for two weeks.

The tainted diary covered one week of the February rating period. With two Hawaii contestants in the popular "American Idol" television series that month, KHON attracted more than one-third of isle viewers ages 18 to 49 during the first half-hour of the show. By 7:30 p.m., of all the televisions that were turned on in the state, more than half were tuned in to "American Idol."

Also that month, KHON's ratings made it the No. 1 Fox affiliate in the country.

"(The tainted diary represented) one home in a rating period that had 1,007 diaries and 2,036 people, but nonetheless ... Nielsen ordered an impact study and, based upon their findings, they're going to reissue the book," said Blangiardi. "It is unprecedented in my 28-year career.

"It is a very serious consequence for us, and we just want to be upfront that this unfortunate circumstance happened."

Nielsen told station officials that someone reviewing the diaries at its Florida operations center red-flagged the suspicious survey booklet.

Details of what the new ratings will look like are unknown, but Blangiardi understands the station will lose, at most, two-tenths of a rating point in one or more portions of the broadcast day. Blangiardi did not know as of yesterday when the new book would arrive in the hands of subscribing TV stations and advertising agencies.

"To me the significance is that Nielsen ... discovered the mistake in the process, investigated it and verified it. The net-net is that it makes me feel better about Nielsen," said Buck Laird, president of Laird Christianson Advertising Inc.

"I mean, obviously you don't expect mistakes to happen, but I think it's the behavior after something happens. It's good corporate behavior and accountability," Laird said.

Mike Rosenberg, president and general manager of competing station KITV, regularly receives Nielsen diary solicitations in the mail at his office, by accident. The station is located in a mixed-use building that also includes apartments. Rosenberg surmised that the mail was intended for an apartment in the building but that the mail carrier had assumed the television-related material must be for the station.

Rosenberg has repeatedly requested that Nielsen remove the station's address from its database. He sends the surveys back but jokes about keeping the $5 that Nielsen sends to diary-keepers.

Blangiardi said this is not the type of market splash that he wanted the station to make.

"We are going to have a major education program for all employees. This isn't anything to be taken lightly," he said.

Nielsen will send forms to all Honolulu TV stations for employees to sign stating that they understand the prohibition against participating in ratings surveys.

Nielsen Media Research

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --