Hispanic leader hails PPM vigilance
NY Daily News January 12th 2009
A top New York Hispanic radio leader says last week's agreement between the ratings service Arbitron and the attorneys general of New York and New Jersey is "a great first step" toward ensuring Arbitron's new Portable People Meter (PPM) rating system fairly measures minority listenership.
"This settlement is a vindication of what we've been saying all along," says Frank Flores, general manager of WSKQ (97.9 FM), the city's leading Hispanic station. "We feel Arbitron rushed into this new methodology before it was ready."
Arbitron switched last fall from its old "diary" system, where survey participants wrote down their radio listening each day, to the PPM, an electronic device that picks up the actual signals to which the participant is exposed.
Most stations' ratings didn't change much under PPM. But several Hispanic and black stations, including WSKQ and WBLS (107.5 FM), saw precipitous drops - and that, says Flores, "has led to declines in advertising revenues that are so devastating they could put some stations out of business."
Late last week, WSKQ laid off several morning hosts, including Frankie J. WBLS has already had staff cutbacks.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, in suits against Arbitron, charged that flawed PPM data threatened the existence of critical media serving minority communities. Those suits led to last week's settlement.
Critics, who include industry groups, members of Congress and the City Council, say Arbitron hasn't put enough meters in minority communities - a charge the company strongly denies.
Arbitron admitted no fault in last week's settlement, which requires it to pay several hundred thousand dollars, ensure adequate meter distribution and promote minority broadcasting. Arbitron also must get accreditation for its New York ratings by Oct. 15 from the national Media Ratings Council.
Arbitron says it was already working on distribution and accreditation. Flores says that's not the point.
"The real significance of the settlement is that Arbitron admitted there's a problem," he says. "And now they have to start taking immediate steps to fix it. When the numbers are flawed for Hispanic and black stations, they are flawed for all stations."
For now, Flores says, the vigilance will continue: "We would not be where we are if we hadn't been a squeaky wheel."