NYC Council backs FCC probe of PPM


As expected, the New York City Council yesterday approved a resolution calling on the FCC to investigate whether Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings system undercounts minorities. In fact, the vote was unanimous.

The reaction was also as expected. Minority broadcasters hailed the move and Arbitron insisted that PPM is accurate and better than the current diary system – and that the FCC has no jurisdiction anyway.

“The New York City Council’s decision to call on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM) system should serve as a wakeup call for local governments and minority communities around the nation. Arbitron’s flawed PPM ratings methodology will severely harm media diversity and ultimately limit the variety of voices and viewpoints on our country’s radio airwaves. It is a real threat, not only to minority communities but could also have a devastating impact on local economies and needs to be taken seriously. The PPM ratings methodology should not be rolled out until all concerns are effectively addressed,” said a statement from the Spanish Radio Association (SRA).

“Several members of the Spanish Radio Association (SRA) have a long standing presence in New York City, working tirelessly as a vibrant extension of the minority communities they serve, and as a strong part of the economic fabric of the communities they serve by creating jobs, paying taxes and supporting small and minority-owned businesses that rely on our airwaves to reach the community. Urban and Ethnic stations not only provide vital news and information, but they also provide a lifeline for their communities by helping to organize, promote, and service a wide range of local civic campaigns and programs. The importance of Spanish-language and Urban radio stations in New York and around the nation is immeasurable, and Arbitron’s unaccredited methodology produces unreliable and inaccurate measurement data that will destroy years of progress diversifying radio. Unfortunately, Arbitron is a monopoly and even though the SRA has invested time and effort to help Arbitron develop a system that will provide reliable rating data, their lack of understanding of minority communities combined with their lack of commitment to these communities, has resulted in our recommendations being ignored,” the SRA added.

Arbitron expressed disappointment at the NYC Council’s action. “We are disappointed by the Council’s failure to recognize:

–that broadcasters, agencies, and advertisers in New York and other major markets have made it clear that PPM is critical if radio is to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging media marketplace;

–the quality of the PPMTM samples in terms of African-American, Hispanic and Spanish-Dominant representation;

–the continuing dialogue Arbitron maintains with Urban and Hispanic broadcasters and agencies;

–the outreach we are making to highlight the value of African American and Hispanic  consumers in the PPM world,” Arbitron said.

“While Arbitron does not believe that the FCC has jurisdiction over our company, we are willing to continue our voluntary meetings with the FCC and other government officials,” the company said.