NEWS3 July 2009

Arbitron: FCC ‘has absolutely no authority’ to regulate PPMs

Government North America

US— Arbitron has told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it has “absolutely no authority to impose regulations” on its portable people meter-based (PPM) radio ratings system.

In a filing with the FCC, Arbitron said: “Congress has considered on multiple occasions whether to put media audience measurement services under federal government regulation, and just as often has rejected doing so.”

The FCC launched an inquiry in May to examine the impact PPMs have had on radio stations targeting ethnic minorities, after complaints from station owners that ratings were down as their audiences were not properly represented in the PPM sample.

Arbitron disputed claims that minority-targeted stations were necessarily recording lower ratings as a result of the switch from paper diary-based measurement to PPMs, saying: “Some stations that feature formats appealing to Hispanic and black listeners have shown longer-term upward trends in their market rank and/or their audience ratings, and some have not. The facts do not support the proposition that PPM-based reports uniformly and categorically result in reductions in the reported listenership of stations that cater to minorities.”

In a lengthy statement the firm reiterated its promise to improve PPM methodology by recruiting more minority panellists and warned that the radio industry “is in danger of falling behind other media platforms”, such as TV and the internet, that are moving towards measuring audiences using “near-passive, electronics-based methods”.

Arbitron said the radio industry must “stay competitive” and “adapt to the 21st century” to attract advertising dollars, “even if there will be temporary dislocations for some stations in making the transition from the diary to the PPM service”.

Yesterday, the Media Ratings Council (MRC) said that industry regulation of audience measurement remained “preferable” to government intervention.