New York City Council Demands FCC Inquiry into Arbitron

29 September 2008

NEW YORK: Members of New York City Council last week unanimously called on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the potential effect of Arbitron's portable people meter on the ethnic diversity of radio.

The move, robustly lobbied for by the Spanish Radio Association (comprising Hispanic radio groups Univision Radio, Spanish Broadcasting System, Entravision Communications and Border Media Partners) purports to be "a wake-up call for local governments and minority communities around the nation".

Argues the SRA: "Arbitron's flawed PPM ratings methodology will severely harm media diversity and ultimately limit the variety of voices and viewpoints on the country's radio airwaves. It is a real threat not only to minority communities, but it could also have a devastating impact on local economies and needs to be taken seriously. The PPM ratings methodology should not be rolled out until all concerns are effectively addressed.

"We commend the New York City Council for working to protect and ensure ethnically and racially diverse radio programming as it continues to thrive in a city of more than 4.6 million minorities."

Arbitron, as might be expected, is not best pleased by the NYCC decision and challenges the FCC's right to sit in juridical judgement on its activities, arguing that these are beyond the latter's remit.

"While Arbitron does not believe that the FCC has jurisdiction over our company, we are willing to continue our voluntary meetings with the FCC and other government officials. Arbitron's role as an independent research company is to provide stations and advertisers with information that is based on the actual behavior of radio audiences. That is what PPM delivers today."

This argument could run and run – but as the late John Maynard Keynes memorably growled: "In the long run we are all dead."

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff