We are pleased by today’s settlement of the Attorney General’s lawsuit requiring Arbitron to overhaul a deeply flawed ratings system that dramatically underreports listenership for ethnic and minority radio stations. The requirement that Arbitron pay for a study to “determine and cure measurable bias” in their ratings system is a particularly heartening aspect of the settlement.
Beginning in 2007, the City Council responded to concerns that Arbitron’s new Portable People Meter system did not adequately account for communities of color and younger listeners, and threatened the survival of ethnic and minority radio stations. Test numbers have consistently supported our concerns, demonstrating inexplicable drops in ratings for ethnic and minority radio. We immediately called on Arbitron to delay implementation of the system until more accurate sample groups could be compiled.
Since then, we have worked with Arbitron and with the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters to review PPM sampling and methodology, to prevent inaccurate representation of listeners from having a disastrous affect on advertising revenues. Our efforts led to the formation of a national panel charged with reviewing the ratings system, which brought about several significant improvements. We also held a public hearing allowing radio stations, industry experts and members of the public an opportunity to weigh in, and passed a resolution urging the FCC to investigate bias within the PPM system.
We commend Attorney General Cuomo for moving reforms of this system even further, and fighting to protect the diversity of media here in New York State. In New York City, we have already suffered losses of Black and Latino radio stations due to the implementation of the PPM system. Local and minority-owned media plays a critical role in our city, keeping our communities informed and active. We cannot afford the use of a ratings system that could shut these stations down forever.