“There may be some big time cheating going on in the ratings system,” said Fox News Channel (FNC) host Bill O’Reilly as he lashed out Thursday evening at Nielsen for what he claims are unexplained ratings swings benefiting MSNBC. O’Reilly claimed bias because Nielsen Media Research Chairman Susan Whiting and 25 other executives have made donations to Democratic campaigns, while only two Nielsen execs have donated to Republican campaigns.
O’Reilly’s charges came at the end of his Thursday show on FNC. He began by blasting the New York Times for reporting that his ratings were suffering at the hands of liberal competitor Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, although O’Reilly refused to use the name of his nemesis. O’Reilly said his ratings were still far better than his rival, but then he started in on Nielsen.
“While Fox News continues to rule, there are major problems with the Nielsen ratings system. There have been wild swings in the ratings that have benefited MSNBC. We’ve asked for an explanation of those wild swings. Nielsen can’t explain them. And those swings are unprecedented in the television business. An examination of Nielsen shows that their personnel is overwhelmingly liberal. 26 Nielsen executives, including CEO Susan Whiting – 26 have donated to the Democrats, two to the Republicans. Bottom line on this is there may be some big time cheating going on in the ratings system and we hope the feds will investigate. Any fraud in the television ratings system affects all Americans,” O’Reilly charged.
RBR/TVBR asked FNC whether O’Reilly is filing a complaint with any federal agency, but no response was forthcoming.
Nielsen issued this statement in response:
“Nielsen is an independent company with no vested interest in the ratings we deliver. Our methodology and practices are audited by the Media Rating Council and we continue to make investments in our technology to make sure that the accuracy of our estimates continues to increase. We stand whole-heartedly behind the accuracy of our ratings and note that these ratings have frequently been used by Fox News in their own advertisements.
Nielsen does not have a political action committee or any other organized program to direct political contributions. Any citizen can contribute to a candidate of his or her choosing within the limits of the campaign finance laws. Some Nielsen employees have exercised this right and contributed to many parties.
The 28 contributors cited by O’Reilly constitute about 0.003% of our total employees and only a handful of Nielsen’s executive team.”
RBR/TVBR observation: Does Susan Whiting, as a private citizen, not have a right to pick her own political allegiances and spend her money as she sees fit? Does anyone really imagine that she would be willing to jeopardize her career, not to mention the entire business structure of the company she heads, to tamper with Bill O’Reilly’s ratings? O’Reilly’s paranoia is mind-boggling.