House Committee Grills Arbitron About PPM
What Is Its Affect On Minority Broadcasters?
December 2, 2009 at 8:27 AM (PT)
ARBITRON is in the middle of testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding its electronic media measurement service, the PORTABLE PEOPLE METER. Chairing the meeting is Rep. ED TOWNS (D-NY), who has expressed concerns that PPM can be damaging to minority-owned radio.
Chairman TOWNS opened the meeting with several shots at PPM, saying "minority radio has been hit by a perfect storm -- the economy, and PPM," noting that the unprecedented decline in ratings gives cause for an examination of "the possibility of methodological flaws in the implementation of the PPM."
Minority radio has been hit by a perfect storm -- the economy and PPM.
CALIFORNIA congressman DARRELL ISSA added, "Many felt this new technology was not ready for prime time. We are concerned about it's accuracy."
Arbitron Defends PPM
"ARBITRON welcomes this opportunity to discuss the importance of electronic measurement, the effectiveness of the PORTABLE PEOPLE METER service, the value of the data it produces, and our responsible approach to the deployment of the service," said ARBITRON Pres./CEO MICHAEL SKARZYNSKI said in a statement prior to the meeting. "ARBITRON looks forward to sharing with the Committee our expertise and insights based on our long history and extensive experience in gathering and disseminating the quality data that is used throughout the radio industry by broadcasters, advertisers, and agencies.
"ARBITRON launched this innovative electronic media ratings service to help support the radio industry's objective to have relevant, reliable data that enables it to compete for its share of advertising revenue," SKARZYNSKI continued. "We have been proactive in our efforts to share relevant and pertinent information with our stakeholders, Congress and other state and Federal government agencies and continue to welcome opportunities to showcase the value of radio and the importance of electronic measurement."
MRC Points To Lack Of Accreditation
MRC Exec. Dir./CEO GEORGE IVIE began testimony by saying the MRC feels "there is little doubt that electronic measurement can offer an improvement, but the MRC has concerns" about PPM. He said ARBITRON still had not offered "sufficient performance metrics on a sustained basis," and had continued to introduce the service to "20 unaccredited markets without solving it's problems."
Chairman TOWNS tried to pin down SKARZYNSKI on ARBITRON's support of the MRC process, asking why they had still rolled out PPM service in 33 markets, when only two had received accreditation. SKARZYNSKI explained that ARBITRON "was following the rules," and that commercializing PPM without accreditation was the norm in the rating industry for radio, TV, the Internet and others.
He did add that accounting firm ERNST & YOUNG reviewed each market prior to commercialization. "If there was a showstopper -- we wouldn't commercialize markets." He added he felt "NEW YORK deserves MRC accreditation."
Rep. ELEANOR NORTON (D-WASHINGTON D.C.) summed up the overall focus of the meeting, posing "what's at issue here if the life and death of one of the most viable industries for people of color."
The PPM Coalition Fans The Flames
The PPM COALITION released a statement that, not surprisingly, took ARBITRON to talk:
TODAY’s hearing put the spotlight on ARBITRON’s flawed PPM system. Numerous witnesses provided detailed testimony on ARBITRON’s ongoing failure to meet minimum standards for accuracy in the makeup of its PPM sample and how these deficiencies threaten the diversity of our radio marketplace. This problem is exemplified by the fact that the MEDIA RATINGS COUNCIL has accredited this system in only two out the 33 markets where PPM is in use. More disturbing still was testimony from MRC’s CEO GEORGE IVIE that in one of the two markets where accreditation has been granted -- RIVERSIDE-SAN BERNADINO, CA -- the PPM system’s accuracy has badly deteriorated. Unfortunately, ARBITRON is refusing to acknowledge the systemic problems with its PPM methodology. This obstinate approach led Chairman TOWNS to demand 'A plan of action and a realistic timetable developed over the next 30 days to correct this unsustainable situation.' The Chairman added that failure to meet that timetable could lead to the introduction of legislation early next year.
The PPM COALITION urges ARBITRON to hear this wake-up call. We stand ready to work with Arbitron over the next 30 days if it will work to implement the committee’s directive to correct the PPM system’s flaws in order to obtain MRC accreditation in every market.