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House Committee Holding Hearing on Arbitron PPM

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing Dec. 2 on Arbitron's Portable People Meter and its effect on diversity.

“With an unprecedented decline in ratings among popular minority television and radio stations, we must explore the possibility of methodological flaws in the implementation of the PPM,” said Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) in a statement. “As it stands now," he said, "the current system jeopardizes the future of minority broadcasting.”

Arbitron countered that it welcomed the chance to showcase the benefits of the technology to Congress--it has been asked to testify at the hearing. "Arbitron looks forward to sharing with the Committee our expertise and insights based on our long history and extensive experience in gathering and disseminating the quality data that is used throughout the radio industry by broadcasters, advertisers, and agencies," said Arbitron President Michael Skarzynski, in a statement.

The PPM Coalition, which includes the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies and has been critical of the PPMS, applauded the hearing, saying it is "confident that the hearing will provide a constructive forum for Congress and the public to learn more about the flaws in Arbitron’s system."

Towns committee released a report back in September 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 have been looking into the complaints that  the PPMs undercount minorities.