Arbitron: FCC Has 'Absolutely No Authority' To Regulate PPM

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Posted by on July 02, 2009 at 15:39:47:

Arbitron: FCC Has 'Absolutely No Authority' To Regulate PPM

WASHINGTON -- July 2, 2009: Arbitron has filed its comments in the FCC's notice of inquiry on whether to launch a formal investigation of the Portable People Meter and the technology's effect on minority radio, saying flatly that the FCC has "absolutely no authority to impose regulations upon Arbitron's exciting new technology for more reliably measuring radio-station listeners' exposure to stations- signals -- known as the Portable People Meter or PPM -- than is achievable using the older paper-and-pencil method for consumers to self-report their listening experiences in a journal-type diary."

Arbitron points out in the filing that Congress has several times declined to put audience measurement under federal regulation and says the courts have "repeatedly rebuffed attempts by the FCC to assert jurisdiction over specific kinds of communications-related activities that are not themselves addressed in the [Communications] Act, simply based upon generalized statements of policy or intent that can be found in the commission's enabling statute."

Arbitron also responds to a theory -- advanced publicly by former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein -- that the FCC may regulate the PPM based on its dependence on embedded radio signals. The filing asserts, "The commission may not restrain the transmission of that lawful information consistent with the protection of those stations' and Arbitron's freedom of speech and expression established in the First Amendment and jealously guarded by the courts."

Arbitron also supplies a detailed description of the PPM technology and says, "Notwithstanding the progress that the PPM service represents over the diary, Arbitron shows in these comments that it is actively and continuously seeking out suggestions for improvements in the PPM methodology."

The filing also claims that radio is "in danger of falling behind other media platforms," such as television, the Internet, and mobile audio services, that are moving to measurement methods similar to the PPM. Says Arbitron, "In order to stay competitive with these other media in attracting advertising dollars, radio must adapt to the 21st century, even if there will be temporary dislocations for some stations in making the transition from the diary to the PPM service."

'No Consistent Pattern'

Arbitron says it has found "no consistent pattern" of stations targeting minority audiences "experiencing only losses in their diary-based market rankings or audience ratings." The filing continues, "To the contrary, these comments point out minority-targeted stations that have seen their market ranking, and/or their audience rating, fluctuate from the last diary-based report to more recent PPM-based reports, with some stations showing improvements, others staying about the same, and some showing drop-offs, but with variations from one PPM-report to the next."

The filing later cites Radio One's KBXX and KMJQ/Houston, which dropped sharply in ratings when the PPM was implemented and have since "recovered and even improved upon their former rankings, with KBXX-FM resuming its number one position and KMJQ-FM climbing up to a number two ranking." Arbitron also points to Urban WWPR/New York and Hispanic-targeted WSQK/New York, KSCAA/Los Angeles, WLEY/Chicago, and KRZZ/San Francisco and says they "either maintained or even bettered their market rankings in the transition from diary to the PPM service."

Says Arbitron, "The facts do not support the proposition that PPM-based reports uniformly and categorically result in reductions in the reported listenership of stations that cater to minorities."

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