FCC Issues a Notice of Inquiry Seeking Public Comment Regarding Arbitron’s Use of Portable People Meters
The FCC’s Notice of Inquiry seeks answers to the controversial question raised by “broadcasters, media organizations and others” whether Arbitron is undercounting the audience for stations that air programming targeted to minority audiences, potentially harming the financial viability of those stations. At issue is Arbitron’s commercial use of equipment called the Portable People Meter (“PPM”), a mobile-phone-sized device that consumers wear throughout the day to track their radio listening. Arbitron has replaced the audience-based rating systems with PPM in certain markets and intends to replace audience-based diaries with PPM in the top 50 radio markets next year.
According to the FCC, while it has “a strong interest in encouraging innovative advancements that lead to improved information and data,” it nonetheless wants to know “whether and how the PPM technological changes adversely affect diversity on the airwaves as well as the integrity and reliability of the Commission’s processes that rely on Arbitron ratings data.”