The government's intrusion into the measurement of media audiences is fraught with problems, illustrated by this quote from the chairman of the committee - Congressman Ed Towns, from the second paragraph of the committee's announcement:
“With an unprecedented decline in ratings among popular minority television and radio stations, we must explore the possibility of methodological flaws in the implementation of the PPM,” said Chairman Towns. “As it stands now, the current system jeopardizes the future of minority broadcasting.”
Congressman Towns, what connection would a "decline in ratings among popular minority television...stations" have to do with PPM? PPM only officially measures radio, and even if Arbitron did measure local TV, there could be no decline in ratings because there are no pre-ppm ratings from Arbitron to compare to!
Here's more from this press release - pay attention to the bolded portion in particular:
Chairman Towns served a subpoena to the Media Ratings Council (MRC) in September 2009 for documents detailing its oversight of Arbitron’s use of the PPM, after Arbitron forbid MRC from releasing documents related to the Committee’s investigation. Although Arbitron promised full cooperation with the investigation, the company prohibited MRC from providing the Committee with any documents related to the PPM. Furthermore, Arbitron provided the Committee with insufficient documents that were either publicly available or biased toward the company.
So - the Congressman wants more documents that are "...publicly available or biased towards the company?" Huh?
This hearing should be interesting. Not because the subject is particularly compelling, but because it may be an illustration of exactly why government shouldn't be involved with issues like the measurement of media exposure.
If Congressman Towns' and the Committee's statements are indicative of the way the hearing will proceed - discussions of why the PPM has reduced TV ratings and why Arbitron hasn't provided the Committee with more publicly available or biased documents - then Congress will have wasted valuable treasure of time and resources.