MRC explains withdrawing accreditation for Arbitron


Looks like the Media Ratings Council (MRC) is cracking down on both radio and television ratings services. Adding to MRC’s pulling of Nielsen Diary Markets accreditation on 11/17, Arbitron put out a press release 12/6 indicating that effective with RADAR 107, the MRC has withdrawn its accreditation for the company’s RADAR (Radio’s All Dimension Audience Research) and Nationwide network and national radio audience services. Specifically, RADAR 107 is scheduled to release on December 13, 2010. The Fall 2010 Nationwide report is scheduled to release in early March 2011.

Arbitron has been rolling out new PPM markets pretty aggressively to improve its ratings methodology and agencies clients have been happy. However, many of those markets are not accredited, but have been audited. Arbitron has been working towards getting those markets accredited.

Right now they have only three markets accredited–Houston-Galveston, Riverside-San Bernardino, and Minneapolis-St. Paul. “I believe they have somewhere in the order of 43 markets in total that have converted from Diary to PPM,” MRC SVP/Associate Director Anthony Torrieri tells RBR-TVBR. “When they create the RADAR and the nationwide products, those products are created based on a compilation of all of their local market surveys. So they’ve been incorporating PPM data in combination with accredited diary data into those products and they have a fair amount of non-accredited PPM data that are being used to compile RADAR and nationwide estimates. And as a result, our board, after reviewing and assessing this for some period has decided that it was time to revoke accreditation of their products.

What does the media buying community have to say?
We asked Natalie Swed Stone, US Director, National Radio Investment, OMD: “Research is complicated. We believe that Arbitron is working to address these issues which are not new. Buying national media is also complicated. We rely on additional information besides audience data to design and implement campaigns—including sales results and ROI. This will continue. In the meantime, we will continue to use the best data available to us.”

Added Ira Berger, Director of National Broadcast, The Richards Group: “While we would certainly prefer RADAR be accredited, we continue to believe it is best source to use as currency in negotiating network radio. As such, we would encourage all national radio suppliers use RADAR to measure all of the offerings, with single source measurement as the ultimate goal across all of National Radio.”

What about the major network radio players?
RBR-TVBR spoke to both Dial-Global’s Charles Steinhauer, President of Operations; and Jay Green, Director of Research. “We agree with the MRC decision, and we believe accreditation will be restored to the national,” said Steinhauer. “Arbitron is working to improve the PPM methodology as it relates to MRC accreditation. Arbitron understands what needs to be done to get PPM accredited and how that affects the national services which are our currency and we expect them to do so.”

We also spoke with Rod Sherwood, President, Westwood One: “The MRC’s decision underscores that Arbitron needs to move as quickly as possible to get all PPM markets accredited.”

When will accreditation return?
They continue to go through an annual review, “but as they continue to introduce more PPM and have a large number of non-accredited surveys combined into those national reports, that put their accreditation in jeopardy. And at this juncture, they have a sufficient amount that warranted pulling accreditation,” Torrieri said.

What would it take to get accreditation back?
He could not comment.

In the meantime, because the withdrawal of accreditation for RADAR occurred late in the production cycle for the release of the RADAR 107 estimates, representation of accreditation from software, data files and related materials will not be removed. Arbitron said it will directly inform all subscribers to the RADAR 107 data of the change in accreditation status.

“Arbitron intends to continue to use commercially reasonable efforts in good faith to pursue MRC accreditation of its PPM ratings service in each market where it has commercialized or is currently scheduled to commercialize the service, regain MRC accreditation of the RADAR and Nationwide services, and maintain MRC accreditation of currently accredited PPM, diary and software services. Arbitron continues to comply with the minimum requirements of the MRC Voluntary Code of Conduct,” said the company in its release.