NYC Council To Ask FCC To Investigate PPM, Arbitron And Radio Respond
August 15, 2008 at 1:20 PM (PT)
The NEW YORK CITY Council is asking the FCC to investigate ARBITRON's PPM service for "potential racial and ethnical biases," as well as have ARBITRON delay deployment. In a statement released YESTERDAY, the Council wrote:
In SEPTEMBER, ARBITRON INC. will be replacing its old diary system with PORTABLE PEOPLE METERS (PPMs), which are electronic devices worn by participants that detect and record radio signals and transmit the data to ARBITRON. PPMs have been criticized for disproportionately benefiting Oldies and Top 40 radio stations at the expense of Black and Latino stations, putting the livelihood of NEW YORK CITY’s urban and ethnic radio stations in jeopardy if they experience a significant decrease in ratings.
[Atbitron] needs someone on its staff who has sensitivity to our marketplace
"Local and minority-owned radio has been a crucial tool in keeping communities informed and active," said Speaker CHRISTINE C. QUINN. "We must take every precaution before implementing a rating system that could shut these stations down forever. We are calling on ARBITRON to delay its implementation of this system in order for the FCC to finish their investigation into the potential bias in the methodology."
"NEW YORK CITY’s diverse communities have much to lose from ARBITRON’s conversion to the PORTABLE PEOPLE METER system from the radio listening diary method," said Council Member LARRY B. SEABROOK. This conversion will especially destabilize the financial health and existence of African-American and Latino radio stations by reducing their advertising dollars, due to the inaccurate measuring of our radio listenership. NEW YORK CITY Council Speaker QUINN has urged ARBITRON’s president, STEVE MORRIS, to reconsider these draconian actions. We have heard the call of the minority broadcasters, and now, it is time for the FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION to act and preserve ownership and broadcast diversity."
"Minority-owned radio stations provide diverse communities the opportunity to receive information germane to their particular needs," said Council Member MARIA DEL CARMEN ARROYO. "ARBITRON’s flawed PPM rating methodology threatens the survival of minority-owned radio stations and has already had a negative impact in other states. We must do everything possible to prevent another minority-owned station from being taken off the air."
ARBITRON SVP/Press and Investor Relations THOM MOCARSKY released this response;
ARBITRON has great respect and appreciation for the work of the NEW YORK CITY Council and for the critical and unique role that Black-owned and Spanish-language radio plays as voices for the diverse communities of NEW YORK and of other cities across the country. For those reasons, we have had a long-term commitment to working with the NEW YORK CITY Council and with minority broadcasters in a collaborative and supportive manner.
We regret that the NEW YORK CITY Council was not able to accept our offer to meet them this summer. A great deal has changed since last NOVEMBER when we last had an opportunity to review in-depth the facts about enhancements in sample quality and the success that minority broadcasters have had in using PPM to better program their stations and build their audience.
While ARBITRON does not believe that the FCC has jurisdiction over the Company or its operations and assets and consequently lacks the authority to commence a Section 403 investigation, it is important to note that the FCC has not determined that it will undertake such an investigation. However, we are committed to continue our voluntary discussions with the FCC as well as with the NEW YORK CITY Council and with Black-owned and Spanish-language radio to explain fully the PORTABLE PEOPLE METER system.
We are confident that a full understanding of the PPM system will demonstrate that it produces objective, unbiased audience estimates. The PPM is a more reliable survey instrument than the paper and pencil diary, which relies heavily on memory and recall.
Our PPM samples effectively represent the diversity of the NEW YORK radio marketplace and of all the markets we measure in terms of age, sex, race, ethnicity and Spanish-language preference. Overall, Hispanics and African Americans have the highest listening levels in the PPM system. Broadcasters that serve ethnic audiences and who have embraced PPM are succeeding with the timely and detailed data that only PPM can deliver.
ARBITRON’s role as an independent research company is to provide stations and advertisers with information that is based on the actual behavior of radio audiences. That is what PPM delivers TODAY.
It is also critical to note that the radio industry is anxiously awaiting the arrival of PPM data, so that they can compete effectively with other media who have more accountable forms of measurement.
Dan Halyburton Comments
EMMIS/NEW YORK Market Manager DAN HALYBURTON told ALL ACCESS, "We believe ARBITRON should be held to the highest standards possible and while we believe they have made significant progress, we expect that there will be more progress. EMMIS/NY has been working hard on our products and marketing. We are ready for PPM and believe broadcasters and our customers are best served by the roll out of PPM without delay. "
Frustration From Spanish Radio
ALL ACCESS spoke with SBS/NEW YORK VP/Market Manager FRANK FLORES, and he expressed concerns and much frustration with PPM. FLORES is adament that at least three Spanish or Urban stations could be forced out of business if PPM isn't corrected. Said FLORES, "At the end of the day, it's AQH Rating that what we sell. That's how we determine cost per point. And PPM is putting us in a position to lose 50% to 60% of our business."
"We were one of the first to sign up for the service, thinking anything that was accurate -- we're all for it," he continued. "When we saw the date, we were floored. ARBITRON keeps saying Urban and Hispanic radio's TSL is down; that's the cornerstone of their argument. The numbers are scary! I asked their research guy in a meeting if he believes there's a big problem here. He said no."
Asked what ARBITRON could do, FLORES suggested, "[ARBITRON] needs someone on its staff who has sensitivity to our marketplace. ARBITRON is a public company. I'm not sure ARBITRON wants anyone to shine the light on the fact that it's a monopoly."
FLORES said he and others had contacted the NYC Council regarding this, as well as reaching out to the Federal government and FCC on occasion. "We'll do everything we can to postpone rollout, and get them to fix it. They want to fix things while we're moving down the road -- with that attitude, we'll be out of business before they get a handle on it."