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"Don't Count Us Out" -- NewsCorp's Phony "Grassroots" Org

Reported by Nancy - April 28, 2005 -

A friend tipped me off to this story. The bottom line is that NewsCorp paid a political lobbying firm, Glover Park Group, to create a "grassroots" organization, Don't Count Us Out. Just another phony "grassroots" front group? Sure. But the details are fascinating.

You may remember there was some uproar in late spring-early summer 2004 when Neilsen proposed switching to "local people meters", an electronic form of tracking what people watch on TV, as opposed to the traditional paper diaries kept by viewers. As Fox would say, "some people" objected, claiming that this would undercount minority TV viewers in major markets. Turns out that Fox's parent, NewsCorp, played a big role in the creation of that oppposition.

This story is being reported by a variety of media-watch sources, such as Cynopsis. According to Cynopsis:

Nielsen Media Research issued a statement in response to the disclosure about the relationships among Don't Count Us Out, News Corp., & the Glover Park Group political lobbying firm:
"The Glover Park Group is admitting for the first time that it created, organized and directed the activities of the Don't Count Us Out organization at the behest of News Corp. Don't Count Us Out has always maintained that it was an independent group of community activists. However, this admission, which is found on Glover Park's own website as a "case study" to attract more clients, clearly shows that it was always acting to advance the corporate interests of News Corp. and its TV stations, which experienced lower ratings after Nielsen replaced papers diaries with more accurate electronic Local People Meters in major television markets.
"Glover Park Group also admitted directing a campaign to disrupt Nielsen's operations in which 'calls and e-mails were targeted at Nielsen executives, shutting down their corporate switchboard.'
"Glover Park does not describe what incentives were used to 'enlist' members to the Don't Count Us Out coalition.
"Glover Park does admit, however, to implementing a 'legislative strategy - targeting key Senators and Congressmen.' Glover Park also maintains that the Senate Commerce Committee is considering legislation that would regulate the ratings business when, in fact, no such legislation is pending."

At the Glover Park Group website, the company describes itself as "offering comprehensive client service from the earliest strategic planning to the final execution of advocacy and image advertising campaigns."

Here is the statement from Glover Park Group about the creation of Don't Count Us Out:

"Nielsen Media Research was set to launch a controversial new television rating system. Strong evidence suggested that the new system could undercount African Americans and Hispanics, as well as younger viewers - and in doing so, severely penalize networks like FOX and UPN that tailor their content to these audiences. FOX parent-company Newscorp turned to the Glover Park Group to devise a campaign to fight back. GPG enlisted community activists and organizations across the country in the Don't Count Us Out coalition. The coalition launched a grassroots campaign, including public protests and rallies; television, radio and print ads were run in both in affected markets and inside the Beltway; calls and e-mails were targeted at Nielsen executives, shutting down their corporate switchboard; and a legislative strategy was implemented targeting key Senators and Congressmen. As a result, Nielsen was forced to delay the roll out of the new system in New York City and currently the Senate Commerce Committee is considering legislation that would, for the first time, mandate government regulation of the Nielsen monopoly."

Don't Count Us Out describes itself as "a coalition of minority leaders, community groups, producers, directors, actors and everyday viewers concerned about fair and accurate television ratings. We think it is time that Nielsen is finally held account [sic] for their efforts." Unlike many websites, however, DCUO's doesn't provide a list a members, a board of directors, a blurb about its founders -- all the info you typically expect from an advocacy group.

So NewsCorp's proxy, the special-interest group DCUO, used "a campaign to disrupt Nielsen's operations in which 'calls and e-mails were targeted at Nielsen executives, shutting down their corporate switchboard.' "

Gee, I haven't heard this story mentioned on the FoxNews programs I monitor (FNL & Special Report). And a search of the foxnews.com website shows that Glover Park Group was last mentioned on 28 Sept 2004, when Chip Smith, a partner at GPG was a guest on Fox & Friends, while Cynthia Rotunno, executive director of Don't Count Us Out, was quoted in a 23 March 2005 article about Nielsen seeking more minority representation. But there's no mention of the connection between these groups or of their connection to NewsCorp.

How are "Fox Fans" supposed to decide what Fox doesn't report?

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (News Corp's involvement with "Don't Count Us Out" & Glover Park Group). O/T comments will be deleted. Please use the O/T category from the list at right to post unrelated comments. Thanks.