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               Media Rating Council

 

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History and Mission of the MRC

In the early 1960’s a U.S. Congressional Committee held hearings on the purpose and accuracy of audience research and considered regulation related to the TV and Radio industries.  These public hearings are commonly referred to as the “Harris Committee Hearings on Broadcast Ratings.”  After investigation and extensive testimony the Committee determined that Industry self-regulation, including independent audits of rating services was preferable to government intervention.  The Harris Committee hearings resulted in the formation of an Industry-funded organization to review and accredit audience rating services called the Broadcast Rating Council (now referred to as the MRC).

Aligned with the actions deemed necessary by the House Committee, the activities of the MRC include:

  • The establishment and administration of Minimum Standards for rating operations;
  • The accreditation of rating services on the basis of information submitted by such services; and
  • Auditing, through independent CPA firms, of the activities of the rating services.

The Council seeks to improve the quality of audience measurement by rating services and to provide a better understanding of the applications (and limitations) of rating information.  The Bylaws of the MRC document the organization’s mission as: “to secure for the media industry and related users audience measurement services that are valid, reliable and effective; to evolve and determine minimum disclosure and ethical criteria for media audience measurement services; and to provide and administer an audit system designed to inform users as to whether such audience measurements are conducted in conformance with the criteria and procedures developed.”  This mission was established with the support of the House Committee.

MRC Membership

Membership is open to any media organization that relies on or uses media research, and each member company is entitled to a seat on the MRC Board of Directors.  Organizations such as Nielsen or Arbitron that provide media ratings are not allowed to be members.  Currently there are approximately 145 Board members in total representing TV and Radio Broadcasting, Cable, Print, Internet and Advertising Agency organizations as well as Advertisers and Trade Associations. The MRC also maintains a formal liaison relationship with the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF).

 

The MRC Audit and Accreditation Process

The central element in the monitoring activity of the MRC is its system of annual external audits of rating service operations performed by a specialized team of independent CPA auditors.  MRC audits serve these important functions:

  • They determine whether a rating service merits accreditation (or continued accreditation)
  • They provide the MRC with the results of detailed examinations which become the basis for quality improvements in the service, either by voluntary action or mandated by MRC as a condition for accreditation, and
  • They provide a highly beneficial psychological effect on rating service performance.  Knowledge that their work may be reviewed by CPA auditors is a powerful spur for quality work by all field and home-office personnel of the rating service.

 

Syndicated Measurement Services that submit to MRC Accreditation must agree to:

  • Supply Complete Information to the MRC

  • Comply with MRC Minimum Standards

  • Conduct the Service as Represented to Client

  • Submit to Annual Audits

  • Pay for the Audit Costs (internal & external)

Resulting audit reports are very detailed containing many methodological and proprietary details of the rating service and illumination of the primary strengths and weaknesses of its operations.  The reports are confidential among the MRC members, independent CPA firm, and the rating service.  Audit reports include detailed testing and findings for:

  • Sample design, selection, and recruitment

  • Sample composition by demographic group

  • Data collection and fieldwork

  • Metering, diary or interviewing accuracy

  • Editing and tabulation procedures

  • Data processing

  • Ratings calculations

  • Assessment of rating service disclosures of methodology and survey performance

 

Pursuant to the last bullet above, the MRC mandates rating services to disclose many methodology and performance measures, which would be otherwise unknown, for example:

 

  • Source of sample frame

  • Selection method

  • Respondents by demographic group versus population

  • Response rates

  • Existence of special survey treatments for difficult to recruit respondent groups such as young or ethnic persons

  • Editing procedures

  • Minimum reporting requirements for media

  • Ascription and data adjustment procedures employed

  • Errors noted in published reports

  • Data reissue standards and reissue instances

 

Rating services awarded MRC Accreditation are given permission to display the MRC’s logo on the audited research product indicating compliance with our Standards.  MRC Standards are publicly available; more importantly, the extensive methodological and survey performance disclosures mandated by the MRC are required to be available to all rating service customers.