FCC proposes changes to local market data used for retransmission talks

WASHINGTON DC—The FCC unanimously passed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to update its rules to ensure TV stations and pay-TV providers use the same data to determine which stations are “local” in negotiations consent to retransmission.

Current Commission rules require that local television stations wishing to be carried on a pay television system must determine their local market by referring to the annual Nielsen Station Index directory in combination with household estimates from the Nielsen’s US television station index.

Nielsen has announced, however, that these publications are no longer being produced. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would remove these Nielsen publications from the FCC rules and replace them with Nielsen’s Monthly Local Television Station Information Report.

President Rosenworcel, Commissioners Carr, Starks and Simington approved the changes.

But Republican Commissioner Nathan Simington issued a lengthy statement questioning the FCC’s overall use of Nielsen data and said, “I therefore believe that the Commission should initiate a notice of investigation regarding Nielsen’s inclusion in nearly two dozen Commission rules and the Commission’s reliance on Nielsen. The data.”

President Rosenworcel did not respond to the idea of ​​looking at the broader use of Niesen data.

“We note that the law provides us with the option of considering a ‘successor publication’ in the event that the original Nielsen publication is no longer available,” she wrote in a separate statement. “This regulation kickstarts that effort.”

Simington noted that problems with Nielsen’s data resulted in the loss of Nielsen’s accreditation with the MRC. While he said he was confident that Nielsen would solve these problems, he raised a point that many broadcasters have been making for years, which is that they need better measurement tools to compete with the tech giants that captured a larger audience share.

“The broadcast industry has lost out to online platforms in advertising competition,” Simington said. “Of course, there are reasons for this aside from the accuracy and completeness of audience analytics – the age-old trend in media consumption is towards online platforms, which generate the advertising dollar. OK, of course. But isn’t it at least worth taking into account that among the considerations that advertisers, especially small businesses, cite for advertising online is the high level of trust that they give to granular audience analysis? »

Noting that the FCC has referenced Nielsen in 23 of its rules, Simington concluded that: “If there are opportunities to identify or generate new sources of broadcast data, we should pursue them. If there are improvements to be made to our use of broadcast data, we must make them. And if our ties to Nielsen ultimately represent a structural barrier to public interest, necessity, and convenience, we should sever them.