Push comes to shove over PPM


Arbitron is the shoved as House Oversight and Government Reform Chair Edolphus Towns (D-NY) uses MRC documents to blast PPM. Arbitron called the Committee’s conclusions erroneous and called for a “fact-based dialogue.”

Towns has had his committee going over the documents since June, and summarized a number of findings.
The committee noted:

* multiple failures to earn MRC accreditation;

* problems with sample, including undercounts of both African Americans and Hispanics in New York City;

* insufficient sample size in general that is particularly harmful to minorities; and

* insufficient use of bilingual interviewers.

“Taken separately and together, these and other problems translate into a ratings disaster for minority-targeted radio stations. Until these items are corrected by Arbitron, the problem will only get worse,” said Towns.

The PPM Coalition jumped on the report, saying in a statement, “These findings echo concerns raised by the PPM Coalition for more than a year in our efforts to encourage Arbitron to address these serious systemic flaws. It is our hope that today’s Committee statement will serve as a wake-up call to Arbitron. They can no longer afford to ignore these problems – they have a responsibility to their customers, the industry, and above all the radio listening public to address these serious issues.”

However, Arbitron took issue with the findings. It said it has been working with Towns, and added, “We were aware of the Committee’s contact to the Media Rating Council (MRC) and we are extremely surprised and disappointed at the analysis and erroneous conclusions reached by the Oversight Committee Staff and communicated in their press statement. We respect and support Chairman Towns’ commitment to the health of minority broadcasters and believe that our collaboration with his staff, the MRC, as well as a number of initiatives that we have underway, will help address that challenge. We look forward to a fact-based dialogue as we clarify some of the erroneous conclusions reached in this current analysis, and will continue to work to resolve these issues.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The new reality we have to deal with is that the adoption of modern audience measuring tools is a necessity, not an option. We suspect it will not be too long before Towns hauls Arbitron into his committee hearing room for another go-around. We’re all for anything that gets this matter resolved ASAP.

One thing that will help immensely is some improvement in the economy in general. The suffering that is being caused by ratings concerns would be much easier to take if advertising revenue was still flowing at an acceptable pace. As the economy heats up, the rhetoric should cool down.

Unfortunately, the economy hasn’t issued a timeline as to when and how it plans to improve.