Arbitron Settles Suits & Vows Changes

David Hinckley, New York Daily News, January 8, 2009

The attorneys general of New York and New Jersey Wednesday announced the settlement of lawsuits that charged radio ratings service Arbitron with undercounting minority listeners.

Under the agreement, Arbitron will pay a settlement of less than a million dollars and promises to continue refining its new Portable People Meter (PPM) technology to reflect listening as accurately as possible.

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New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had a slightly different perspective. He referred to Arbitron’s rollout of PPM as “misrepresentation of a flawed product” that “should not have been released.” Cuomo vowed his office “will aggressively hold Arbitron to rigorous standards to make PPM better.”

Cuomo and New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram had charged that PPM undercounted minority listeners so badly that it threatened the survival of black and Hispanic stations.

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“I hope our company and the radio industry will see more reliable and accurate data as a result of this settlement,” said Charles Warfield, president of WBLS’ parent, Inner City Broadcasting.

The Spanish Radio Association called the settlement “a major step forward for accurate ratings data,” but cautioned that until all settlement steps are implemented, advertisers should “view the flawed PPM ratings with great skepticism.”

Arbitron agreed to a series of technical benchmarks for PPM measurement. It will also provide more than $100,000 to minority broadcasters and help promote minority broadcasting.

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