NABOB Chief ‘Pleased’ About PPM Inquiry

Two days after the Federal Communications Commission announced it will conduct a public inquiry into Arbitron’s portable people meter service and how it measures minority audiences, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters has hailed the government’s decision and lashed out against Arbitron.

Investigations by the Attorneys General in New York, New Jersey and Maryland, resulted in settlement agreements that required corrective action by Arbitron to address PPM methodology flaws.

“The commercialization of PPM has resulted in inaccurate and volatile ratings data due to fundamental flaws in the sampling methodology underlying the use of the electronic measurement device,” said NABOB executive director Jim Winston. “Arbitron’s failure to adequately address these important flaws in its sampling efforts has resulted in the under counting of minority audiences in the largest markets in the United States.”

Winston said the FCC’s inquiry “provides the first real opportunity to address these issues at a national level. Arbitron has now released PPM in 15 markets across the U.S. and has received MRC accreditation in just two of the 15. That fact alone should be cause for concern within the industry and at the FCC.”

A source close to the MRC accreditation process said that PPM is on a somewhat slower pace regarding accreditation than Nielsen’s recent introduction of its Local People Meter measurement (“perhaps, in part, because Arbitron is now rolling out new markets rather quickly”) and that each of the markets its implemented have been audited and reviewed prior to going live, but only those two have been accredited so far (Houston in early 2007, Riverside in early ’09).” But, points out the source, “even Arbitron has publicly acknowledged there are some issues it needs to address in order to achieve accreditation in many of these markets.  That’s an ongoing process.” 

Winston added, “Minority-owned broadcasters have born the brunt of the economic damage from the impact of PPM, but reliable audience ratings are of vital importance to the entire radio industry.” He said that “developing a robust record for the Commission is essential. The inquiry is perhaps the best way to shine further light on the impact of PPM throughout the United States.

The NABOB response was apparently delayed because the group, which represents struggling broadcasters deep in a war with the musicFirst Coalition over the Performance Rights Act, was holding its 33rd annual four-day spring conference in St. Maarten until today.