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City Council Also Inquires About PPM

Warfield tells Big Apple lawmakers 'this is about survival.'

In testimony before the New York City Council, representatives of Hispanic and black-owned broadcast stations this week said the Arbitron Portable People Meter methodology is flawed and undercounts their listeners — so much so that if allowed to be used in more markets as scheduled on Oct. 8, their stations could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

ICBC Broadcast Holdings is a broadcast group that owns 17 radio stations, primarily targeting African American communities. President/COO Charles Warfield positioned the undercounting dispute as a civil rights issue.

“This is about survival,” he said in prepared testimony. “The commercialization of flawed ratings data will directly affect the ability of current owners to service debt, repay debt, employ staff and serve the communities we live in and are committed to serve.”

Arbitron Chairman/President/CEO Steve Morris said that the difference between PPM ratings and diary ratings is a function of the survey tool, not the sample size. PPM collects actual exposure; the diary, recall-based “habitual” behavior.

“The paper and pencil diary allows loyal listeners, of any and all formats, to overstate their habitual listening. Broadcasters of all formats, including urban and Hispanic, who have embraced PPM, have improved their audiences and their standing in the marketplace,” stated Morris.

The council is expected to ask the FCC to investigate PPM; Arbitron has said it does not believe the commission has jurisdiction over Arbitron services.