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Filipino Researchers Grab Headlines

December 18 2007

Never a dull moment in research in the Philipinnes. More details have been emerging about the suing of Nielsen by a major broadcaster, while the country's senate is to consider regulation of opinion polls at the bidding of a member who says the alternative is to 'allow the public survey firms to run the government and society.'

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the measures, which may result in government accreditation and regulation of firms, were needed to prevent inaccuracies in political opinion surveys: 'Even if a business is not under any duty to serve the public, if it is affected with public interest, it may be regulated for public good'. As justification she cites Article 16, section 11 (paragraph 2) of the country's Constitution, which states: 'The advertising industry is impressed with public interest, and shall be regulated by law for the protection of consumers and the promotion of general welfare.'

Recent controversy follows a Pulse Asia survey in which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was supposedly rated as 'the most corrupt president' of the republic since 1964. Commissioned by former Senator and staunch opponent Serge Osmeņa III, the poll was quickly branded as biased. Senator Defensor-Santiago said potential for inaccuracy in polls comes from many sources, including sampling error, non-response bias, response bias, wording of questions and coverage.

She acknowledged that 'I may incur the displeasure of those who make a lot of money out of running so-called opinion polls' but added that if polls are allowed to present the results as they wish regardless of apparent bias, 'then in effect we are allowing free manipulation of public mind away from the truth and toward the particular idea being espoused by the opinion poll.' The Senator's resoution suggests that the Commission on Elections should design a system of accreditation for survey companies, aided by the Philippine Statistical Association.

Meanwhile a statement from GMA-7, a rival network of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp, reacted to the latter's suing of AGB Nielsen (www.mrweb.com/drno/news7720.htm ) by saying the company was 'equally interested in getting to the bottom of this allegation.' GMA-7 said details of the informant's story on which the lawsuit is based 'do not make sense', including the suggestion that the bribing of respondents took place in the Bacolod area, for which separate ratings are not yet released and which constitutes only a small part of one reported area.

Furthermore, GMA-7 casts doubt on the informant's assertion that he and his colleagues were able to locate 89 meter devices in the small area of Bacolod. It also suggests that if it had been tampering with ratings, its own figures for the affected Visayas and Mindanao areas would surely have risen significantly since it began subscribing to AGB ratings in July 2007 - which it says has not happened.

Maya Reforma, AGB Nielsen General Manager, said her company had previously advised ABS-CBN it was undertaking an 'exhaustive investigation' into the activities of GMA-7, and analyzing whether these activities had had an impact on viewing data.

Reforma noted a provision in her firm's contract with ABS-CBN that AGB Nielsen should be given a month to investigate any such claims, following a formal notification which has not been received, and said the filing of the suit without full observance of this provision was 'extremely disappointing.'

ABS-CBN is suing the research firm, online at www.agbnielsen.com for a total of P81 million.

All articles 2006-21 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas unless otherwise stated.

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