Troubles for Arbitron People Meter
New York Rep. Edolphus Towns, launched an investigation this summer of Arbitron Inc.’s use of the Personal People Meter, a device used to rate radio audiences across the country. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that he chairs had received numerous complaints from minority broadcasters who believed the meter produces inaccurate samplings of the listening preferences of minorities and certain age groups. When Arbitron submitted documentation that he considered insufficient and prohibited the Media Rating Council, which oversees audience measurement services for member clients like Arbitron, to provide its documents to the panel, Towns issued a subpoena to the council.
This week the House panel released a summary of MRC’s findings that there are “persistent problems” with the meter. A summary of the findings Towns released showed that in New York, for example, where the average sample audience is 5400 participants, Arbitron uses 500 recruits to represent more than 4 million ethnic minorities.
“There are some serious problems that we hope we can sit down with them to correct. The sample they’re using is just not adequate and they’re not doing any serious recruiting in minority communities. Minority radio stations are really getting clobbered because their ratings are going down,” said Towns, adding that Arbitron has indicated an awareness that problems exist.
But Arbitron immediately disputed the findings and issued a statement that the company is “extremely surprised and disappointed” by the committee’s “analysis and erroneous conclusions” and that it looks forward to a “fact-based dialogue” to clarify those conclusions.