New attack on PPM


New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is the latest to jump into the dispute over whether Arbitron’s Portable People Meters (PPM) undercount minority listeners. Cuomo has subpoenaed information from Arbitron about the PPM methodology. His action yesterday came as the New York City Council is set to hold a hearing today on a resolution demanding that Arbitron delay PPM activation in the nation’s largest radio market.

For its part, Arbitron repeated assurances that the PPM ratings service is “fair, reliable and fully represents the diversity of New York radio markets.

“A significant and improper decline in ratings under the PPM methodology could cause minority stations to summer drastic reductions in advertising revenue,” said Cuomo in announcing his probe of PPM. He has ordered Arbitron to produce all PPM-related records going back to 2003.

“We are very pleased with the Attorney General’s decision to initiate a formal investigation.  We have been trying to get this matter appropriately resolved with Arbitron for over a year and a half.  We believe this intervention by the State of New York will provide the kind of attention this matter requires,” said Jim Winston, Executive Director of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB). African-American and Hispanic broadcasters have also been pressing for an FCC investigation of PPM.

Arbitron has insisted all along that PPM ratings are accurate and based on sound science. The company has said that minority stations tended to post higher ratings under diary measurement because their loyal listeners overstated listening. PPM, it says, measures actual exposure, not recall.

Arbitron has not yet received accreditation of PPM by the Media Rating Council (MRC) in any market except Houston, where the methodology is different than subsequent markets. But the company says it will continue to adhere to the MRC Voluntary Code of Conduct and points to the MRC as the only proper forum for evaluating PPM.

“The media industry should be concerned about the attempts to supplant or short-circuit the Media Rating Council accreditation process. The MRC was founded at the behest of Congress. Throughout its 40 plus years of service, the MRC has been a driving force behind the vast quality improvements in the ratings services that research companies have been delivering to the advertising and media industries,” said Arbitron CEO Steve Morris in a statement last evening.