Minority Broadcasters At Odds With Arbitron’s PPM Again

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Arbitron’s Personal People Meter (PPM) is one of the most controversial and embattled pieces of measurement technology that I know of.  Touted at its introduction as the wave of the future for measuring radio listenership and audience demographics, its accuracy has been consistently challenged since its introduction. It has been the subject of civil lawsuits against Arbitron by the attorney generals of New York, New Jersey and Maryland. It has also been the subject of both FCC and Congressional hearings concerning its accuracy, particularly in the realm of minority broadcasters.

Minority broadcasters are so concerned about the PPM that in 2008 they formed their own lobbying group, The PPM Coalition, composed of the Spanish Broadcasting Sytem, Entravision, Univision Radio, ICBC Broadcast Holdings, Border Media Holdings, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, the Spanish Radio Association, and the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.

Now the conflict over Arbitron’s sampling methodologies is ramping up yet again in the form of a court battle brewing between the ratings agency and PPM Coalition member The Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS). Eric Sass at Media Daily News reports:

SBS signed a contract with Arbitron for radio audience measurement by PPM, a passive electronic measurement device, in June 2007, including a requirement that SBS encode its audio signals so they can be measured by PPM. [Note: this was before the minority sampling controversy began. –GW]

SBS then pushed for a credit from Arbitron based on a contractual clause concerning minimum audience sample sizes. Arbitron refused and SBS stopped paying. The battle was now fully joined. Sass continues:

On Feb.4, SBS stopped encoding its audio signals in New York, Miami, Chicago, L.A. and San Francisco. On Feb. 11, Arbitron responded by obtained a restraining order from the New York State Supreme Court requiring SBS to begin encoding for PPM again. At a second hearing on Feb. 16, the court confirmed that SBS must continue encoding for PPM measurement, at least for the time being.

Looks like rocky client relations if you ask me. Now that things have entered the courtroom, the fur is beginning to fly. SBS is challenging the legality of their prior Arbitron contracts stating that they had the PPM measurement system forced upon them with no assurance of accuracy or quality. At the same time, the PPM Coalition is pushing the FCC to open an inquiry into the PPM.

Arbitron has a good bit at stake here if the SBS wins and no longer have to encode for the PPM that removes a large chunk of data from the Arbitron reports, devaluing the PPM data as a whole. In the meantime, Nielsen is still pushing into the American radio measurement industry and each bit of bad publicity for Arbitron is a boon to their expanding efforts.

Looks like it’s going to be one heck of a year in the measurement industry! Stay tuned!

Image: Arbitron Logo / Fair Use: reporting

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