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Towns Stresses PPM Overhaul in Letter

Chairman says his committee will follow progress of group talks

I see Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has firmed up his direction to those testifying in the recent hearing on the Arbitron Portable People Meter.

The thrust of the hearing was to air opinions about whether the PPM undercounts women and minorities, and in turn, affects the ad revenues of those stations. During the hearing, some executives of minority-owned radio stations revealed big ratings declines as a result of the PPM. One executive, Radio One’s Al Liggins, disagreed, saying PPM is not to blame for the financial problems of minority stations. The head of the Media Rating Council, the organization that monitors Arbitron, testified that it had not yet accredited Arbitron’s PPM in 31 of 33 radio markets due to ongoing concerns about Arbitron’s ratings samples, while noting that the company has fixed some issues the MRC asked for.

Towns sent letters to Arbitron and the MRC, as well as Univision Communications, Minority Media and Telecom Council, ICBC Holdings, Bromley Communications, Spanish Broadcasting System and Radio One. He gave them 30 days to develop “a solution that creates accurate ratings for all radio stations, including minority targeted broadcasters,” including a realistic timetable for addressing the issues raised at the Dec. 2 hearing. “As a first step, all parties should meet as soon as possible to establish a foundation for a sustainable agreement,” he says in the letter, released this week.

Again, Towns mentions coming up with a legislative solution if there isn’t agreement; however he has not mentioned specifics and I’m not sure Congress can do anything about this other than bring attention and political pressure to the issue, as Towns is doing now.