The PPM Coalition (PPMC) insists that the FCC has broad authority under the Communications Act to investigate PPM and require actions by Arbitron. At the very least, it says, the FCC should require Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation and set deadlines for that to happen. And if Arbitron won’t cooperate, it wants the FCC to cease all use of the company’s data.
“Section 154(i) and Section 403 provide the Commission with ample authority to investigate and to require the submission of information to determine the accuracy and reliability of Arbitron’s PPM ratings methodology. Arbitron’s PPM methodology for defining radio markets underpins – and indeed is the starting point – for many of the Commission’s broadcast policies, regulations and procedures critical to radio broadcasters. If, as the PPMC and several attorneys general have demonstrated, Arbitron’s PPM methodology is unreliable, it completely undermines the Commission’s reliance on such data and ability to effectively regulate the radio industry in the public interest. Thus, the Commission has a vital interest in ensuring that the data upon which its own rules depend is accurate, valid and reliable,” the PPMC claimed in its filing.
“Arbitron’s corner-cutting, inferior, sub-standard research methodology has devastated minority radio stations. Unless the Commission acts, the diversity of the radio airwaves will soon be extinguished,” the PPMC said. It called on the FCC to require Arbitron to win MRC accreditation for PPM, with a deadline of no later than October 15 in New York and December 31 in New Jersey, in line with targets set by Arbitron’s settlements with the attorneys general in those states.
In criticizing PPM, the PPMC said its telephone-based sample excludes many listeners, the separate cell-phone-only sample is too small, Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in the sample panels, “Arbitron’s panels are shockingly small,” and that PPM panelists do not use the devices properly.
Insisting that time is of the essence, “the PPMC suggests, after receipt of the PPM information, if the MRC continues to withhold accreditation and Arbnitron is unwilling to cooperate to rectify the deficiencies in its data collection methodology, the Commission sould take appropriate steps to adopt an alternative methodology that is credible, verifiable and transparent,” the filing concluded.
RBR/TVBR observation: We have always opposed the use of Arbitron metro definitions for the FCC’s local ownership rules, so we’re all for this so-called punishment of Arbitron. And it’s an aspect of this case where the Commission actually does have the authority to take action. As for the idea that the FCC has authority to mandate MRC accreditation and set deadlines, that’s pretty far-fetched, since the US Congress considered a law that would have mandated MRC accreditation for television ratings services and never passed it.