That Latin Sound: Both Sides of the Border

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As one of the largest and fastest growing ethnic groups in the U.S., the voice of the Latin communty has been gaining volume for some time now. As a result, it is only appropriate that we turn our attention towards two major news items that directly impact that community.

Let’s start south of the border, where Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications Commission (CoFeTel) has authorized stations operating within 200 miles of the U.S. border to begin transmitting in HD (via EarthTimes):

In an official statement, the CoFeTel said: “Que tomando en cuenta el grado de desarrollo e implementacion del sistema IBOC en los Estados Unidos de America, se requiere que Mexico instrumente acciones decisivas, para que los concesionarios y permisionarios de radiodifusion sonora mexicanos ubicados en la zona de 320 kilometros dentro de la frontera norte de Mexico, puedan realizar sus transmisiones en igualdad de condiciones tecnologicas, en beneficio de la calidad del servicio que proporcionan al publico radioescucha.”

The translation is: “Considering the extent of the development and implementation of the IBOC system in the United States of America, Mexico is required to take decisive action so that [the country’s AM and FM radio stations] in the zone located within 320 kilometers of the northern border of Mexico can transmit at the same technological level so that they can provide the benefits of quality service to the radio listening public.” It went on to state that stations that want to transmit with the IBOC (HD Radio) system must request authorization from CoFeTel and must commit to assisting the commission in studying the technology.

Bob Struble, President and CEO of iBiquity Digital, the developer of HD Radio, is “deeply grateful.” This move will allow users on our side of the border to access Mexican programming in HD, and in the part of the country that tends to have the most significant Latin population, the southern border. It is also a great breakthrough in transitioning the HD medium from domestic to international use.

I will also admit, showing my age, that I have a great fondness for radio stations south of the U.S. border. It was in one of these small stations, (XERF-AM, just south of Cuidad Acuna, Mexico) that brought the inconic Wolfman Jack to the airwaves forever changing the American perception of the Disc Jockey. Besides, what child of the 1980s could possibly forget Wall of VooDoo‘s classic single, “Mexican Radio”?

Meanwhile, stateside, Arbitron is working extensively with Latin advertisers to address demographic issues raised in reference to their Portable People Meter. Eric Sass at MediaPost has the details:

The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies is creating a new advisory council that will work with Arbitron on both problems and opportunities related to the new Portable People Meter, a passive electronic device for measuring radio listening

The advisory council, formally announced Monday at a Hispanic radio conference organized by trade pub Radio Ink, includes broadcasters Univision, Entravision, Spanish Broadcasting System and ABC Radio Networks, top Hispanic ad agencies and two Arbitron executives: Stacie de Armas, its director of multicultural business affairs, and Bob Patchen, chief research officer.

It is nice to see this huge demographic get some solid input at an industry level. Arbitron gains some points for deciding to delay commercialization of their PPM in a variety of stateside markets for three to nine months while simultaneously launching several initiatives to improve the integrity of their sampling.

Speaking at the Radio Ink conference on the preliminary launch of the PPM, [Jose] Lopez-Varela [the chairman of the AHAA] recalled that it resulted in enormous declines in Hispanic radio audience size and station rankings.” Members of our industry have cited multiple flaws in the methodology, measurement (exposure to radio signal vs. preference), design, and implementation, which all will be addressed by the AHAA Council on PPM.”

[Isabela] Sanchez [managing director of Tapestry] agreed, warning that “without reform, PPM implementation could have serious consequences for the Hispanic advertising and media industry. The council will be a forum to unite our issues, identify problem areas, and try to create a resolution that will benefit everyone.”

The fact that there are problems should surprise no one. Any complex endeavor always experiences issues or setbacks. What is vastly more important is how rapidly the problems are acknowledged and resolved. I think Arbitron is making good time in this regard, after all the PPM was only announced a matter of months ago and already we are seeing issues identified and steps being taken towards resolution. Muy bueno!

Photo courtesy of Esparta, used under its Creative Commons license

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