Congress Getting Involved in Arbitron PPM Controversy

Now Congress is getting into the controversy over Arbitron’s portable people meter ratings service. Rep. Edolphus towns (D-N.Y.) chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Monday (June 29) he was opening an investigation into the ratings service to see if it misrepresents minority targeted radio stations.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, Towns raised concerns about the financial viability of minority targeted radio stations due to lower ratings, the placement of PPM meters in minority communities and whether Arbitron missed cell-phone only households. He requested that the FCC get back to him by July 1.

Arbitron responded that it welcomed the opportunity to discuss its service. “Arbitron looks forward to sharing with the Committee our expertise and insights based on our long history and extensive experience in gathering, distributing and supporting the currency that is used throughout the radio industry by broadcasters, advertisers and agencies,” said Michael Skarzynski, president and CEO of Arbitron, in a statement.

Since Arbitron has rolled out the PPM, now commercialized in 15 markets, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, the Spanish Radio Association and the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council have put pressure on the Federal Communications Commission and other state regulators, claiming Arbitron’s PPM methodology fails to adequately count ethnic and minority audiences. Earlier this year, Arbitron settled with three  
state attorney generals in New York, New Jersey and Maryland.