Nielsen ratings scandal widens; Univision executive implicated

Nielsen has widened its investigation into a ratings scandal in Los Angeles and uncovered evidence that a Univision Communications radio executive allegedly has been manipulating the ratings.

On Monday, the measurement giant confirmed that the Los Angeles ratings scandal was larger than the company first thought. Last week, Nielsen sought to downplay the incident by saying there was only one problematic household in Nielsen’s audience pool in Los Angeles.

However, acting on a tip from a radio station insider, Nielsen widened its probe. Nielsen determined late last week that there were problems with a second house that participated in the sample audience.

Nielsen discovered that an executive with Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications had access to Nielsen measurement devices called portable people meters.

“Subsequent to last week’s announcement about the delay in Los Angeles PPM Radio data, Nielsen has learned that a media affiliated household participated in the Los Angeles sample,” Nielsen said in a statement, calling the breach “a serious violation of data integrity standards.”


Last week, Univision denied that any of its employees might be involved in the ratings manipulation scandal.

But on Monday, Univision — the nation’s largest Spanish-language media company — acknowledged that it has terminated the programming executive who worked at its popular radio station KSCA-FM (101.9).

The executive apparently had access to several Nielsen “people meter” measurement devices.

The company declined to name the executive.

“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,” Jose Valle, president of Univision Radio, said in a statement.

“We commenced an investigation and took immediate action by terminating the employee based on our findings,” Valle said. “We are cooperating fully with Nielsen. A radio station employee being related to a Nielsen participant seriously undermines the industry and is unacceptable.”

The disclosures rocked Los Angeles’ radio community because the ratings manipulation apparently dates back at least a year.

That means that Nielsen ratings might have been compromised for some time, disadvantaging radio stations that competed against Univision. Stations use the Nielsen ratings to set their advertising rates.

Radio executives previously expressed surprise with the ratings released for April because the Univision station leapfrogged over four other stations to become the top-rated station in the key morning drive-time hours.

This is the second time in the last year that there have been allegations that people associated with radio stations or radio personalities had access to Nielsen measurement devices.

Nielsen said it plans an “impact analysis” to figure out the extent of the problems. The company also plans to discuss with radio stations in Los Angeles how many months of ratings data it will need to scrutinize and perhaps revise.

“We will be taking a number of actions to minimize the risk of reoccurrence. ... Additionally, Nielsen will be implementing an immediate and aggressive review of our policies and procedures to protect the integrity of our panels,” Nielsen said in its statement.