PPM Declared 'Currency' In NY, Seven Other Markets ... Critics Respond In Force
October 6, 2008 at 3:17 PM (PT)
In the face of headlines regarding the fight over the rollout of PPM in NEW YORK, ARBITRON went ahead and officially announced that it has commercialized its PORTABLE PEOPLE METER radio ratings services in NEW YORK and seven other new markets, effective TODAY (10/6). The move, along with its countersuit against NEW YORK Attorney General ANDREW CUOMO, has prompted its criics to respond in force.
ARBITRON has released radio audience estimates for the SEPTEMBER 2008 PPM survey month (AUGUST 21st-SEPTEMBER 17th) to its subscribers in NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES, CHICAGO, SAN FRANCISCO, NASSAU-SUFFOLK, MIDDLESEX-SOMERSET-UNION, RIVERSIDE-SAN BERNARDINO and SAN JOSE.
"Effective TODAY, the PPM radio audience estimates for these markets should be used as the basis for buy/sell transactions of radio commercial time among subscribing stations, agencies and advertisers," ARBITRON wrote in its announcement. "In addition, the JULY and AUGUST PPM survey months, which ARBITRON had previously released as 'pre-currency' information, are now designated as 'currency' data. The SPRING 2008 diary-based radio audience report (APRIL 3rd-JUNE 2th) is no longer deemed 'currency' for buy/sell transactions."
ARBITRON Chairman/Pres./CEO STEVE MORRIS said, "We are commercializing our PORTABLE PEOPLE METER radio ratings services in these markets in order to meet our obligations to our customers and to the radio industry."
"Without PPM, the industry will not have up-to-date estimates of the radio audience in the nation's largest markets to facilitate an efficient buy-sell process for radio advertising," MORRIS continued. "Advertisers are in the process of planning their ad budgets for all media including radio. Our goal with the commercialization of the PPM is to help radio remain competitive in an increasingly challenging media marketplace."
PPM Coalition 'Outraged' ... But Not Surprised
ARBITRON's actions were loudly criticized by the PPM COALITION, comprised of ASSOCIATION OF HISPANIC ADVERTISING AGENCIES, BORDER MEDIA PARTNERS, ENTRAVISION COMMUNICATIONS, INNER CITY BROADCASTING, MINORITY MEDIA AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK OWNED BROADCASTERS, SBS RADIO, SPANISH RADIO ASSOCIATION and UNIVISION RADIO. In a just-released statement, the COUNCIL declared:
We are outraged by ARBITRON's decision to start its flawed PPM system earlier than previously announced. Their action is in blatant disregard to the concerns from dozens of entities including the radio industry, advertisers, the NEW YORK Attorney General's office, members of Congress, civil rights organizations, minority-owned stations and community leaders.
The implementation of PPM will have a tremendously negative impact on minority communities nationwide. ARBITRON's defective system reports inaccurate listenership data, which in turn drives lower advertiser rates, making it difficult for ethnic and Urban stations to survive. The unaccredited methodology will severely damage the diversity of voices and viewpoints on our nation's radio airwaves, posing a significant threat to minority communities with the potential to have a devastating impact on local economies. In fact, NEW YORK and PHILADELPHIA have been audited twice by the MRC and denied accreditation twice.
Unfortunately, we are not surprised by this action. ARBITRON is a completely unregulated monopoly. Absent accreditation, ARBITRON is free to impose its will at the expense of accurate and reliable data in the market that counts minority communities. The PPM Coalition is going to continue to fully cooperate with regulators, Congress, the civil rights community, state and municipal authorities and other stakeholders to bring some accountability to ARBITRON.
SBS Throws In Its Two Cents' Worth
The SPANISH BROADCASTING SYSTEM went even further, sending out its own respose that mirrored the PPM COALITION.
"As a leading broadcaster of Spanish language content in the top Hispanic markets, including NEW YORK, SPANISH BROADCASTING SYSTEM is extremely disappointed in ARBITRON's decision to accelerate the implementation of its flawed Portable People Meter (PPM) despite not having resolved the large number of critical errors in their methodology. For months, these flaws have been brought to ARBITRON’s attention from a range of constituencies including the broadcasting and advertising communities, the NEW YORK Attorney General's office, members of Congress, and local community leaders.
It’s widely known that ARBITRON’s PPM has been criticized for having severe problems that inaccurately measure radio listening among minority groups, and for failing to receive accreditation from the Media Ratings Council (MRC). Ethnic and Urban radio stations are critical sources of news and information in minority communities and help provide an alternative to the mainstream media. ARBITRON’s imprudent PPM implementation will severely and irreparably harm media diversity, and ultimately limit the variety of voices and viewpoints on our radio airwaves.
ARBITRON’s decision to push the PPM into implementation without the support of broadcasters and government officials or MRC accreditation demonstrates the company’s blatant disregard for the radio industry, its "customers" and minority communities.
We applaud the NEW YORK Attorney General’s office, leaders in Congress and local community leaders for their conscious efforts and commendable actions to protect the interest of minority groups in our country. SBS will continue to seek a solution on these issues until all of the identified PPM problems have been resolved.
Arbitron Blowback: The Critics Declare "War"
ARBITRON's actions have elicited a slew of counterattacks from a variety of groups. THE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL RIGHTS (LCCR) sent out a missive where it declared that "further investigation of the PPM ratings methodology is warranted."
The NAACP has sent out an Action Alert, urging its members to "Contact the Chairman of the FCC and ask that the Commission conduct a study of the proposed ARBITRON change in radio rating methodology and that ARBITRON not use the new methodology until the study has been completed." The group also sent out a letter directly to FCC Chairman KEVIN MARTIN.
In its own press release, THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK OWNED BROADCASTERS (NABOB) slammed the PPM rollout and ARBITRON’s lawsuit "seeking to protect its monopoly in the ratings business so that it can continue to publish factually inaccurate and misleading ratings data and charge radio broadcasters extra for that data."
"ARBITRON has decided to turn the PPM issue into trench warfare," NABOB Exec. Dir. JIM WINSTON stated. "The onslaught of press releases issued by ARBITRON today makes clear that they have no intention of fixing the problems with PPM. Instead, ARBITRON is attempting to block the NEW YORK Attorney General from engaging in the kind of independent review that PPM needs."