As City’s Stations Prepare for New System, Speaker Quinn and Council Members Push for Improvements

CITY HALL – Today, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn together with Civil Rights Committee Chair, Larry B Seabrook, Consumer Affairs Committee Chair, Leroy Comrie and members of the Council held a hearing today calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate Arbitron on their Portable People Meter (PPM) system. The PPMs have caused outrage in numerous communities nationwide because of methodology that has resulted in the closing of many minority-owned radio stations in New York City. Steve Morris, President and CEO of Arbitron, Bob Patchen, Arbitron’s Chief Research Officer and radio and trade representatives testified at today’s hearing.

“My colleagues and I are not asking the FCC to block Arbitron’s use of the PPM system entirely but rather that they ensure the system is used fairly and adequately represents all facets of radio listenership,” said Council Speaker Quinn. “We appreciate Arbitron’s willingness to work with us over the past several months and welcomed their participation in today’s hearing as we continue to have an open dialogue about this important matter. We hope that our concerns are taken into consideration not only for the future of radio but also for our constituents.”

“It is important that we send a message to Arbitron that the survival of Black, Latino and Asian radio is vital for the survival of our people,” said Council Member Larry Seabrook. “It is our most important vehicle for information and intellectual thought.”

“Diversity of opinion is what makes New York great, and ethnic and minority-owned radio provides a unique forum to express those opinions, said Council Member Leroy Comrie. We cannot allow a new rating system to put the future of these stations in jeopardy. We need a service that measures our actual audience and provides reliable and credible information. We look forward to continuing our work with Arbitron to make PPM such a service.”

“Minority-owned media is an essential link in keeping ethnic communities together,” said Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “It is a means by which they can share their experiences and stay informed about the issues affecting them most. I want thank Speaker Quinn, my colleagues and everyone who participated in this hearing on Arbitron and we will continue to demand a fairer and more effective system for gauging radio listenership.”

The concerns raised by the Council have been echoed by the Media Ratings Council, who, in February of this year, denied Arbitron accreditation for their PPM system in New York and Philadelphia. While this did not prevent Arbitron from moving forward with implementing the PPM system in New York, it indicated a flawed and problematic methodology.

After the PPM system was introduced in other media markets in the country, smaller stations found it difficult or impossible to stay afloat in a competitive media landscape. In Houston and Philadelphia, the use of PPM’s has been disastrous for minority-owned radio stations. In New York City, initial results for the new rating system showed a severe drop in ratings for some of the most popular stations, with some dropping as much as 12 spots on the ranking list.

The PPM system was tested in New York City in Fall 2007. It is scheduled to be fully implemented next month.