FCC Unsure About Arbitron PPM Action

NEW YORK Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said Wednesday during a hastily-called press conference he isn’t sure the FCC has the “legal authority” to investigate Arbitron’s portable people meter radio ratings service.

The PPM Coalition filed a petition with the FCC to investigate Arbitron’s data collection method’s with the new electronic technology, and attorneys generals in New York and New Jersey have filed suit against Arbitron, which has filed suits against both attorneys general. “We are considering what we should end up doing,” added Martin. (Related: “New York AG Sues Arbitron.”)

But the PPM issue was clearly not at the top of Martin’s concerns Wednesday. He was clearly agitated with his four commissioner colleagues who on Monday told him they were not prepared to vote on his long-pushed-for plan to force cable companies to also carry some 500 low power television stations throughout the nation. The topic was withdrawn from the FCC’s open monthly meeting agenda on Tuesday and will not be addressed at Wednesday’s FCC meeting being held in Nashville. The late notice withdrawal has been doubly embarrassing for Martin because it has left a handful of powerful cable executives stranded in Nashville, expecting their topic to be discussed.

Martin, who’s term as FCC chairman will likely end Jan. 20 when he is expected to tender his resignation to make way for the new president’s choice of chairman, was nearly yelling when he told reporters that he is “very upset that the other four commissioners had months to consider” his proposal. When asked by reporters during the hour-long discussion about the cable executives, some of whom had flown from the West Coast just for the meeting, being stranded in Nashville, Martin shouted, “I am frustrated for them as well.”

The FCC’s open monthly meeting began at 10:30 a.m. and was held in the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. The  meeting was part of the university’s Pediatric Obesity Conference. Childhood obesity and the impact and role media serve in the area of children’s health is one of commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate’s key subjects.