Rep. Towns Claims Problems With PPM, Arbitron Responds
September 23, 2009

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced yesterday that the Media Ratings Council has found "persistent problems" with Arbitron's Portable People Meter.

Towns launched his own investigation into the PPM earlier this year, as a result of minority broadcasters' well-documented complaints about Arbitron's methodology. Dow Jones reports that according to the House Oversight Committee, the MRC said Arbitron "consistently undercounts minority populations across the country." The MRC claims that in New York City, Arbitron undercounted Hispanic and African American populations "by several percentage points." It also found that Arbitron's sample sizes were "unacceptably low" to accurately measure minority audiences' listening habits.

Arbitron has released a statement in response to Rep. Towns, saying, "Over the last four months, Arbitron has been actively engaged with Chairman Towns and the Oversight Committee Staff. Arbitron has been open and forthcoming, supplying detailed information, answering questions and providing proactive recommendations to address the challenges faced by minority broadcasters. We were aware of the Committee’s contact to the Media Rating Council (MRC) and we are extremely surprised and disappointed at the analysis and erroneous conclusions reached by the Oversight Committee Staff and communicated in their press statement."

"We respect and support Chairman Towns’ commitment to the health of minority broadcasters and believe that our collaboration with his staff, the MRC, as well as a number of initiatives that we have underway, will help address that challenge."

"We look forward to a fact-based dialogue as we clarify some of the erroneous conclusions reached in this current analysis, and will continue to work to resolve these issues."

"Arbitron is a leader in audience measurement and continues to stand firm in our commitment to delivering the top quality data that our customers can use with confidence in their transactions."

The PPM Coalition has also released a statement in response to the House Committee's findings, saying the report "demonstrates the seriousness of the PPM system’s flaws."

"As the Committee indicated in its statement, a review of MRC data shows that the PPM system suffers from "persistent problems" in minority sampling; the system has 'unacceptably low' audience participation in the sample; and Arbitron has made 'insufficient efforts to use bi-lingual interviews to recruit Spanish dominant Hispanic sample participants'."

"These findings echo concerns raised by the PPM Coalition for more than a year in our efforts to encourage Arbitron to address these serious systemic flaws. It is our hope that today's Committee statement will serve as a wake-up call to Arbitron. They can no longer afford to ignore these problems -- they have a responsibility to their customers, the industry, and above all the radio listening public to address these serious issues."

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