Copps Praises PPM Deal

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps gave a shout-out to Arbitron
and the PPM Coalition Thursday (April 22) for their agreement on initiatives to
improve the minority sample for the device, though he still registered his
criticism of the PPM's audience representation.

"I am pleased at the announcement of a settlement of
the dispute between Arbitron and the Portable People Meter (PPM)
Coalition," he said in a statement. "This would appear to be a major
step forward. How successful it will be will depend, of course, on
implementation of the terms of agreement. It was obvious that the Arbitron PPM
was not fully representing minority audience count, to the commercial
disadvantage of minority radio broadcasters." 

"I look forward to learning more about the details of both
the agreement itself and the implementation phase.  Meanwhile, I am
encouraged that the parties have been able to bring us this far."

Arbitron said Thursday that it had agreed to "include
the addition of address-based sampling with targeted in-person recruiting to
increase PPM panelist participation in key market segments."

"Arbitron remains committed to the continuous
improvement of our PPM ratings service," Arbitron President William Kerr
said of the agreement. "We have worked with the PPMC and the MRC [Media
Ratings Council] to design these initiatives, and we believe they will help
Arbitron deliver the quality data that our customers expect. These initiatives,
together with other elements, are part of a larger ongoing program by Arbitron
to obtain and retain MRC accreditation."

The MRC was created by Congress to vet and accredit ratings
systems, but participation by the industry is voluntary.

The PPM issue has drawn plenty of attention in Washington, particularly
from EdolphusTowns (D-NY), chairman of the House Government Oversight committee, who
both Copps and Arbitron cited as a motive force in the agreement.

Towns' committee released a report back in September 2009
concluding that, among other things, "the ratings company was not
sufficiently recruiting Spanish-dominant Hispanics for its survey."
Arbitron countered that the conclusions were erroneous. The report was released
after the committee subpoenaed the Media Ratings Council for documents of its
oversight of the PPM.  MRC was created by Congress back in the 1960s to
independently vet media ratings, though its seal of approval is not necessary
for a company or technology to operate in the space.

The FCC and the Government Accountability Office had also
looked into the complaints that  the PPMs undercount minorities. And the
issue even drew the attention of then Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who wrote
to Arbitron back in fall 2008 saying the meters should not be deployed until
they had been accredited, citing the concerns about undercounting minorities.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.