PPM rollout: Not tomorrow, but yesterday


Moving to pre-empt any last-minute injunction against making PPM currency in eight more markets, Wednesday’s scheduled launch was moved to Monday. In addition to Houston and Philadelphia, which had already been commercialized, Arbitron announced that PPM is now ratings currency in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Riverside-San Bernardino, along with the embedded markets of Nassau-Suffolk, Middlesex-Somerset-Union, and San Jose. The move stunned the PPM Coalition, which expressed outrage at the rollout acceleration.

Effective yesterday, October 6th, Arbitron subscribers are no longer permitted to use the Spring 2008 diary survey for those markets as currency for advertising buying and selling. The only authorized currency is PPM data for the September survey month (August 21-September 17, 2008). The previously distributed July and August data, which had been “pre-currency,” is now currency as well, since many ad buyers want three months of data for averaging.

“We are commercializing our Portable People Meter radio ratings services in these markets in order to meet our obligations to our customers and to the radio industry,” declared Arbitron CEO Steve Morris. PPM critics don’t see it that way.

“We are outraged by Arbitron’s decision to start its flawed PPM system earlier than previously announced. Their action is in blatant disregard to the concerns from dozens of entities including the radio industry, advertisers, the New York Attorney General’s office, Members of Congress, civil rights organizations, minority-owned stations and community leaders,” declared the PPM Coalition in a statement.

“The implementation of PPM will have a tremendously negative impact on minority communities nationwide. Arbitron’s defective system reports inaccurate listenership data, which in turn drives lower advertiser rates, making it difficult for ethnic and urban stations to survive. The unaccredited methodology will severely damage the diversity of voices and viewpoints on our nation’s radio airwaves, posing a significant threat to minority communities with the potential to have a devastating impact on local economies. In fact New York and Philadelphia have been audited twice by the MRC and denied accreditation twice,

Unfortunately we are not surprised by this action. Arbitron is a completely unregulated monopoly. Absent accreditation, Arbitron is free to impose its will at the expense of accurate and reliable data in the market that counts minority communities. The PPM Coalition is going to continue to fully cooperate with regulators, Congress, the civil rights community, state and municipal authorities and other stakeholders to bring some accountability to Arbitron,” the coalition said.

The PPM Coalition has sought to have the FCC conduct an investigation of PPM. Reply comments in that proceeding were due yesterday. The PPM Coalition consists of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, the Spanish Radio Association, the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, and five radio group owners: Border Media, Entravision, Univision, SBS and Inner City.

“Arbitron’s decision to push the PPM into implementation without the support of broadcasters and government officials or MRC accreditation demonstrates the company’s blatant disregard for the radio industry, its ‘customers,’ and minority communities,” said SBS in an additional statement of its own.