Having a candidate for President of the United States in opposition hasn’t changed Arbitron’s position that the Portable People Meter (PPM) roll-out should continue as planned. The company’s response to Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) is the same as that previously to Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) – “the radio industry should not wait any longer for electronic audience measurement.”
While Obama is the Democratic candidate for President, the joint letter with his state’s senior senator speaks from their perspective as lawmakers representing Illinois – and specifically Chicago, the nation’s 3rd largest radio market and one of those where PPM is scheduled to become ratings currency a week from today, Wednesday, October 8th.
“Delay is in the best interest of consumers, broadcasters, and advertisers. Experts agree that a properly implemented PPM system is more accurate than the paper and pencil diary system currently in use. However, Arbitron plans to commercialize a PPM system based on a methodology that was denied MRC accreditation and as a result, we can only conclude that it does not accurately reflect the behavior of all consumers, including minorities,” Obama and Durbin said in their letter to Arbitron CEO Steve Morris.
The letter notes that both senators have been advocates of media diversity and opportunities for minority broadcasters. It echoes the concerns expressed by Inouye and Leahy about the potential impact of PPM on media diversity. Obama and Durbin insist that “the implications of poor implementation of a new PPM system for the public interest are too serious to ignore.” They note that the Media Rating Council’s Voluntary Code of Conduct discourages ratings companies from ending a ratings service – in this case diaries – until the replacement – PPM – has received MRC accreditation. The senators letter urges Arbitron to follow that voluntary code and continue diary measurement in Chicago until PPM receives MRC accreditation.
“Arbitron is following and will continue to follow the requirements of the Media Rating Council Voluntary Code of Conduct,” said Morris in response. “The MRC’s mission, as the industry organization that audits and accredits ratings services, has always been expressly predicated upon a process that is voluntary rather than mandatory,” he added.
Despite the calls from Capitol Hill for delay, Arbitron is sticking with its PPM rollout.
“We support the MRC accreditation process and will continue to pursue accreditation in all markets, but the radio industry should not wait any longer for electronic audience measurement. Broadcasters, agencies, and advertisers in radio’s top markets have long called for the adoption of a more precise and credible audience measurement tool. They have made it clear that the adoption of the Portable People Meter service is critical if radio is to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging media marketplace,” said Morris in a company statement.
RBR/TVBR observation: We don’t recall that Obama has had much to say about radio issues in the past, while Durbin has long been deeply involved in issues affecting broadcasting. It is interesting that the Obama-Durbin letter makes no mention of the FCC and its pending proceeding on whether it has authority to investigate PPM and, if so, whether it should do so. The letter notes that the MRC Voluntary Code of Conduct discourages ratings companies from discontinuing a ratings service until its replacement has been accredited and the senators urge Arbitron to “do so for the good of the market’s and the public’s faith in the data you produce.” The problem with that is that Arbitron has already shut down diary measurement in Chicago and the other markets due to go to PPM as currency next week.