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Minority Groups Seek Probe of PPM by the FCC

Arbitron disputes jurisdiction; meanwhile Oct. 8 is a big PPM day in New York, L.A., Chicago and San Francisco.

The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, the Spanish Radio Association, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and several broadcasters — Entravision, Spanish Broadcasting Systems, Univision, ICBC Broadcast Holdings and Border Media — want the FCC to get involved in a dispute with Arbitron over the Portable People Meter System.

Saying time is of the essence, the group filed an emergency petition under Section 403 of the Communications Act asking the commission to open an inquiry into the methodology Arbitron uses for the new measurement technology.

“The PPM,” the companies state in the petition, “grossly undercounts and misrepresents the number and loyalty of minority radio listeners.”

The companies have had talks with Arbitron for nearly two years seeking PPM improvement, they say. Right now, the PPM is used in Philadelphia and Houston. On Oct. 8, it’s scheduled to “go live” in more markets, including the top four: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.

“Most advertisers are likely to accept Arbitron’s assertion that the PPM results are more accurate than the diary results, and in light of Arbitron’s undisputed monopoly position will have no alternative but to rely on Arbitron’s flawed data. This will lead to drastically lower advertising revenues for urban and Hispanic formatted stations” after the Oct. 8 switchover, the parties state in the petition.

Arbitron said in a statement that the PPM is a more reliable survey tool than the diary, which relies on recall. The audience measurement firm has said it’s increased its PPM sample sizes for urban and Hispanic markets.

“Arbitron does not believe that the FCC has jurisdiction over the company or its operations and assets and consequently lacks the authority to commence a Section 403 investigation. Nevertheless, we are committed to continue our voluntary meetings with the FCC.”

The FCC is taking comments on the petition until Sept. 24 at MM Docket 08-187.