Genachowski admits FCC’s PPM role is limited


The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) was the first broadcast group to get an official visit from new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (D). So, of course he spoke about NABOB’s fight to force changes on Arbitron and its Portable People Meter (PPM) audience ratings system for radio. 

“I understand that several attorneys general have looked into whether PPM methodology undercounts minority audiences. And I know that several members of Congress are actively examining the issue. As most of you know, prior to my getting sworn in, the Commission, under the leadership of Acting Chairman Michael Copps, issued a Notice of Inquiry on Portable People Meters,” Genachowski said. “While the Commission’s authority over the core issue is somewhat limited, the NOI sought comment on how the FCC’s own use of Arbitron PPM data might impact the integrity of agency analyses and trend reporting, and thus policymaking.”

What does the Chairman expect to come out of this? “The Commission is still reviewing the record. I will be asking the Media Bureau to pull together a roundtable with different stakeholders in this debate in the near future to try to reach greater understanding and perhaps resolution of issues in disagreement,” he told the NABOB 33rd Annual Fall Broadcast Management Conference.

Chairman Genachowski noted the “perfect storm” facing traditional media and that hurdles to accessing capital are even greater for minority broadcasters and would-be minority station buyers than for the industry as a whole. The Chairman referred to recommendations adopted just a few days earlier by the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity to promote minority ownership in the communications industry. He noted that one of the recommendations was restoration of what used to be known as the minority tax credit – now referred to as the “designated entity program” – to increase opportunities for small businesses, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses.

That is a move that NABOB, the National Association of Broadcasters and many other broadcast groups have been advocating for many years. Restoration of the tax credit would require congressional action, but that would certainly be more likely to happen with active support from the FCC.

RBR-TVBR observation: We don’t understand why any Commission resources are being wasted on the PPM issue. Chairman Genachowski called the FCC’s authority over PPM “limited.” A better description would be nonexistent. The MRC and the United States Congress are dealing with PPM issues, which is where those issues belong. The FCC would be better served by expending its staff hours, money and other resources in areas where it actually has jurisdiction.