House panel puts PPM, Arbitron on the griddle


The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is calling in Arbitron as a chief witness as it seeks to examine the decline in ratings being experienced by minority radio stations. The hearing will be held Wednesday 12/2/09. Arbitron immediately welcomed the opportunity to testify.

The committee is under the gavel of Edolphus Towns (D-NY), who said, “With an unprecedented decline in ratings among popular minority television and radio stations, we must explore the possibility of methodological flaws in the implementation of the PPM. As it stands now, the current system jeopardizes the future of minority broadcasting.”

Towns added, “I remain deeply concerned that increased use of the PPM may unfairly threaten the financial viability of minority targeted radio stations whose advertising revenues depend on the size of their rated audience. In addition, there is a serious risk that certain groups of minority listeners will continue to be undercounted, imperiling minority audience radio stations and decreasing the diversity of opinions in radio broadcasting.”

Arbitron President/CEO Michael Skarzynski responded, saying, “Arbitron welcomes this opportunity to discuss the importance of electronic measurement, the effectiveness of the Portable People Meter™ (PPM™) service, the value of the data it produces, and our responsible approach to the deployment of the service. 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.”

The PPM Coalition applauded the announcement of the hearing with a very strongly-worded statement. “Arbitron has abused its monopoly power in the top radio markets to force a ratings system on the radio marketplace despite persistent problems with sampling and recruitment techniques. As a result, radio ratings for broadcasters who serve minority communities have been disproportionately diminished.”

The Coalition added, “We hope this public hearing will finally be the wake-up call Arbitron needs to stop delaying action and finally make the investments needed to ensure its ratings data is fair and reliable.”

The PPM Coalition is comprised of several minority broadcasters and organizations, including the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, Border Media Partners, Entravision Communications Corporation, ICBC Broadcast Holdings, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, SBS Radio, Spanish Radio Association and Univision Radio.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is one committee hearing that promises to include some fireworks. We suspect that Arbitron will be on its toes – to all appearances, it will be walking into a hostile environment.