Arbitron vs. the Rest of the World

OK - I have kept my mouth shut about this for as long as possible. But I really have to comment on this today, after listening to testimony by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office about our very real financial crisis:

From Taylor on Radio at

"The New York City Council votes - unanimously - to ask the FCC to investigate Arbitron's People Meter

The Council's listening to constituents in the black and Hispanic radio communities who fear the PPM will disadvantage them and their audiences, compared to the current diary system. Arbitron has already discontinued the diary research in New York and other key markets, ahead of an October 8 debut of "live" ratings based on electronic measurements. But the Council, led by Christine Quinn, hopes the FCC can do something. The Spanish Radio Association quickly applauds the Council vote over a technology it calls "flawed", and says the PPM "should not be rolled out until all concerns are effectively addressed."

The PPM is measuring the listening of the panel extremely accurately. And, quite frankly, the results have not really surprised any of us who have been in this business for a while.

Given that, plus with the limited bandwidth that the government and regulators in both NY and DC have today due to the fiscal crisis, it seems like this action is a case of "fiddling while Rome burns." The City Council in New York should be concerned about the short term liquidity of their constituents... and how to assist them should the worst happen in our financial system. The effects of that will be far more severe than anything that PPM will offer.

The new measurement will upset the apple cart for many minority broadcasters who will be impacted by the possible results. There is no doubt, since Arbitron took hundreds of millions of dollars from these broadcasters while the diary was the methodology, that Arbitron should assist these broadcasters in finding their way in the new PPM world. But - engaging the government in this during this time of dire crisis is not the best thing for the NY City Council's constituents. Nor is it the best thing for America.