Arbitron Settles With Yet Another Attorney General

Arbitron has reached an agreement with Maryland’s Attorney General that will require the company to implement measures to more reliably represent younger and minority listeners in its portable people meter ratings service in the Washington and Baltimore markets. The measures are similar to those Arbitron agreed to earlier to settle lawsuits brought by the Attorneys General of New York and New Jersey.

The agreement with Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, announced Friday (Feb. 6) is the first that that requires Arbitron to implement methodological changes prior to commercializing its electronic ratings service in a market. Baltimore is scheduled to convert from the diary to the meter beginning with the September 2009 ratings report. Washington went live in December 2008.

“Arbitron’s PPM technology is a valuable tool for the radio industry,” Ganlser said in a prepared statement. “Developed here in Maryland, the technology is already in use in the Washington, D.C. market and soon to be implemented in the Baltimore radio market. As its use continues to grow, it is critical that the PPM system is implemented in a manner that accurately reflects the listening audience and treats all broadcasters fairly.”

As expected, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) and the Spanish Radio Association applauded the settlement. “We congratulate and thank attorney general Gansler for his leadership in ensuring that Arbitron’s new PPM system accurately reports the listening preferences of African American and Hispanic listeners in Maryland,” the organizations said in a joint statement. “Significantly, this is the first agreement that requires Arbitron to solve these problems prior to implementation of its PPM service in a market, in this case, Baltimore. We deeply appreciate attorney general Gansler’s commitment to this important civil rights issue.”

In summary, within the PPM service for the Washington radio market, Arbitron has agreed to:
Recruit panelists using a combination of telephone-based and addressed-based sampling methods. Arbitron has committed to use the address-based sampling technique for at least 10 percent of its sampling efforts by or before October 1, 2009 and at least 15 percent of its recruitment efforts by the end of December 2010.

Increase cell-phone-only sampling to at least 10 percent of all recruitment efforts by or before October 1, 2009 and at least 15 percent of all recruitment efforts by the end of December 2010.

Take all reasonable measures to ensure a minimum sample performance indicator (SPI) of 15 percent and to obtain and maintain a minimum SPI of 17 percent by June 2010 with a target SPI for the market of 20 percent or higher.

Take all reasonable measures to ensure average in-tab rates of at least 75 percent for the overall persons age 6 and older population, and to ensure that categories and subcategories comprising 10 percent or more of the radio population for the market fall within 85 percent of the overall 75 percent target.

Provide to Washington market subscribers monthly reports detailing the PPM installed and in-tab sample sizes by individual zip code.

Take all reasonable measures to obtain accreditation for the PPM radio ratings service from the Media Rating Council.

Include a disclaimer on written promotional material and websites indicating that PPM ratings are based on audience estimates and should not be relied on for precise accuracy or precise representativeness of the radio market.