The FCC today issued a Notice of Inquiry into the use of the Portable People Meter technology of radio audience measurement now being rolled out by Arbitron in radio markets throughout the country. Several months ago, various groups petitioned the FCC for an inquiry into the PPM, contending that it has certain methodological flaws that undercounted particular groups, including minority groups, and thus could have an impact on the financial viability of the stations listened to by such groups (see our summary of the petitions and the issues raised by these petitions). The Notice of Inquiry asks about those perceived flaws, about the potential impact of any flaws on the use of Arbitron market definitions for purposes of the FCC radio multiple ownership rules, and on the more general question of whether the FCC even has the jurisdiction to regulate the use of the PPM.
Specific questions on which the FCC seeks comments include:
- Does the use of this technology really undercount minority populations?
- If so, what has been the impact on the economics of minority-formatted stations in markets where the system is in use?
- Are there specific information gathering techniques that should be improved in the PPM system?
- What has been the effect on the PPM system of settlements between Arbitron and the Attorneys General of several states – where Arbitron promised to change its sampling process?
- What is the impact of Media Ratings Council accreditation for the PPM in certain markets, and its lack of accreditation in others?
- Do the questions about PPM reliability have any impact on the use of Arbitron to define radio markets for FCC multiple ownership purposes?
- What is the FCC’s jurisdiction to review Arbitron’s practices in connection with the PPM?
Details of these questions can be found in the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry at pages 12-17.