Maryland AG cuts “me too” PPM deal


Arbitron and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced an agreement similar to the previous deals with the AGs of New York and New Jersey to hit recruitment and in-tab targets for minority participants in Portable People Meter (PPM) panels. The Maryland agreement applies to PPM measurement in the Baltimore and Washington, DC metros. PPM recently became ratings currency in DC and it will become currency in the Baltimore market when the September 2009 data is released.

“The settlement agreement announced this morning [Friday] requires Arbitron to solve key flaws in PPM’s sampling methodology in the Washington, DC and Baltimore markets. The settlement is significant because it is the first to require proactive measures by Arbitron to address major problems with PPM prior to its implementation in a market, in this case, Baltimore,” said a statement from the PPM Coalition, consisting of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, Border Media Partners, Entravision Communications Corporation, ICBC Broadcast Holdings Inc., Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, SBS Radio, Spanish Radio Association and Univision Radio.

“With similar settlements covering the New York and Philadelphia markets, the PPM Coalition called upon Arbitron to acknowledge the need for a nationwide approach to address the damaging impact caused by PPM on minority radio broadcasters.  Absent such an agreement by Arbitron, the problems identified by the New York, New Jersey and Maryland Attorneys General will continue to plague broadcasters and advertisers in every market in which Arbitron has imposed or will impose its PPM system,” the coalition declared.

AG Gansler, however, used kid gloves in his announcement. Arbitron does, after all, have its primary operations headquartered in Maryland. “Arbitron’s PPM technology is a valuable tool for the radio industry. Developed here in Maryland, the technology is already in use in the Washington, DC market and soon to be implemented in the Baltimore radio market. As its use continues to grow, it is critical that the PPM system is implemented in a manner that accurately reflects the listening audience and treats all broadcasters fairly,” Gansler said.

“The company’s long-standing continuous improvement programs are a powerful framework for enhancing our Portable People Meter radio ratings services. This agreement with the Maryland Attorney General further indicates that Arbitron is proceeding along the appropriate course as we commercialize PPM in the top radio markets,” said Arbitron CEO Michael Skarzynski.

Once again, Arbitron supplied RBR/TVBR with a more detailed summary of the terms of the legal settlement than did the AG’s office.

“In summary, within the PPM service for the Washington D.C. radio market, Arbitron has agreed to:

Recruit panelists using a combination of telephone-based and addressed-based sampling methods. Arbitron has committed to use the address-based sampling technique for at least 10 percent of its sampling efforts by or before October 1, 2009 and at least 15 percent of its recruitment efforts by the end of December 2010;

Increase cell-phone-only sampling to at least 10 percent of all recruitment efforts by or before October 1, 2009 and at least 15 percent of all recruitment efforts by the end of December 2010;

Take all reasonable measures to ensure a minimum Sample Performance Indicator (SPI) of 15 percent and to obtain and maintain a minimum SPI of 17 percent by June 2010 with a target SPI for the market of 20 percent or higher;

Take all reasonable measures to ensure average in-tab rates of at least 75 percent for the overall persons age 6 and older population, and to ensure that categories and subcategories comprising 10 percent or more of the radio population for the market fall within 85 percent of the overall 75 percent target;

Provide to Washington D.C. market subscribers monthly reports detailing the PPM installed and in-tab sample sizes by individual zip code;

Take all reasonable measures to obtain accreditation for the PPM radio ratings service from the Media Rating Council®; and

Include a disclaimer on written promotional material and websites indicating that PPM ratings are based on audience estimates and should not be relied on for precise accuracy or precise representativeness of the radio market.

Regarding the PPM radio ratings service in Baltimore:
Arbitron is currently scheduled to commercialize the PPM radio ratings service in Baltimore with the release of the September 2009 survey report on October 9, 2009. The Company has agreed to use comparable methods and comply with comparable terms in connection with the commercialization of the PPM service in Baltimore that reflect the different demographic characteristics of that market and the timetable for commercializing the PPM methodology in Baltimore. Arbitron and the Maryland Attorney General will agree to the specific comparable terms at a later date.”

So, Arbitron has now settled with the Attorneys General of New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Are agreements with any other AGs in the works, we wondered? That drew a “no comment” from the company.

RBR/TVBR observation: The PPM Coalition continues to press for a nationwide agreement to enforce the PPM provisions set forth in the AG agreements. But the one that matters most, recruitment of more cell phone only households, is already being implemented nationwide. What would really convince people that PPM data is valid would be MRC accreditation in some Top 10 markets for the “Radio First” methodology.