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AHAA Slams Arbitron for Ignoring PPM Concerns

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The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies wrote to Arbitron on behalf of its member shops late last week chastising the radio ratings company for ignoring concerns it spelled out more than two months ago about the composition of the listener panels in markets where it deploys the portable people meter.

The agency trade group charged that Arbitron continues to offer PPM ratings based on samples that generally underrepresent Hispanic listening audiences. Within the Hispanic sample segments, AHAA, said, the ratings company does not break out income data or country of origin data and relies on recruitment methods that skew toward English-dominant persons.

The panels also omit ZIP code information that was available in diary reports and which is very important for retail clients, the letter stated. Also missing: listener loyalty metrics. Other deficiencies were also spelled out in the missive.

"As Hispanic-specialized agencies, we have a responsibility to our clients to maximize their budgets, and deliver sales and results," wrote AHAA chairman Jose Lopez-Varela. "With PPM, we are unable to do our jobs effectively and our clients will suffer. When a research sample is inaccurate, the research is invalid. The PPM sample is wrong."

Lopez-Valera wrote of his "great disappointment" at not hearing back from Arbitron after he wrote on Sept. 11 outlining similar concerns. "AHAA has tried in good faith to work with Arbitron and communicate our reservations clearly and concisely," he wrote in his follow-up letter, dated Nov. 20 that was addressed to Arbitron vp Rich Tunkel and office of multicultural business affairs director Stacie de Armas.  "However, you and other company representatives have been indifferent and refuse to acknowledge the severity of the consequences that PPM in its current state poses to the Spanish-language radio industry and the U.S. Latino communities."

Groups representing the interests of other minority groups have also complained about inadequate representation in the Arbitron PPM samples, as have numerous broadcasters, focused on both minority and mainstream audiences. The AHAA letter was sent two days after FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein urged the full commission to investigate complaints that the PPM underrepresents minority listening. New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is also investigating.

The AHAA letter also followed by just a few days word that Nielsen Media Research (like Adweek, owned by the Nielsen Co.) was entering the radio ratings business and would compete with Arbitron in the space, after winning contracts from both Cumulus Radio and Clear Channel Radio.

An Arbitron rep could not be immediately reached for comment.