The New York City Council votes today on whether to ask the FCC to investigate whether Arbitron’s PPM undercounts minorities and thus threatens broadcast diversity. The outcome is not in doubt. In fact, Council Speaker Christine Quinn has already posted on the Council’s website an automatic email for New Yorkers to support the proposed FCC investigation.
Here’s the email that the NYC Council website is sending to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin from anyone who fills in their name and email address:
Dear Chairman Martin:
I am writing you to express my concerns regarding Arbitron’s plans to replace paper diaries with the Portable People Meter system as a method of measuring New Yorkers’; radio listening habits.
While I support any technological improvement that would increase the accuracy of Arbitron’s ratings system, I remain apprehensive about the integrity of its methodology and the adverse consequences an imperfect PPM system might have on minority radio stations.
Minority radio stations have long served as the voice of their communities, disseminating information on social, political and economic issues, as well as other issues of concern to the community. If we are to continue benefiting from the diversity of radio in our city, we must remove those obstacles that may inhibit its growth. A flawed PPM system has the potential to cripple minority stations, thus denying a critical public service to millions of New Yorkers.
For the sake of minority radio stations and communities throughout the five boroughs, I urge you to direct the Federal Communications Commission to investigate Arbitron’s PPM system and its potential effects on minority radio stations.
RBR/TVBR observation: As we noted before, there is no cost to the City of New York in suggesting that someone else, in this case the FCC, spend its time and resources on an investigation. Also, there is potential political fallout from anyone voting no and being criticized on local Urban and Hispanic stations. As it is, the Council member from Steve Morris’ neighborhood may lose his vote, but that’s just a single local vote.