PPM's critics send letter to Barack Obama

Missive paints picture of doom for minority stations

Critics of Arbitron's portable people meter are relentless. Hoping to halt it or, at the very least, alter Arbitron's PPM service rollout, three minority groups have sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking for the administration's intervention in the controversy.

The letter dated Aug. 6 was signed by Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, David Honig, president of Minority Media and Telecommunications Council; and Sylvia Aguilera, director of Hispanic Telecommunications and Technology Partnership.

"Without the immediate intervention of the federal government, we stand to lose a valuable and irreplaceable resource, the independent voice of minority radio," the three wrote in a letter. Calling Arbitron's data "faulty," the letter paints a picture of doom for minority stations that are purported to experience a ratings drop of 40%-60%, compared with nonminority stations that have had only one-third the ratings loss.

The Federal Communications Commission, the House Judiciary Committee and most recently the Florida Attorney General have taken up inquiries into Arbitron's PPM on accusations that the system might undercount minorities.

Earlier this year, Arbitron settled with three attorneys general in New York, New Jersey and Maryland.

While most clients continue to make the transition to the PPM service, including Radio One, the largest African-American-owned broadcaster, at least one group, Univision Communications, has decided it would not continue to subscribe.

Arbitron has so far commercialized the PPM service in 20 markets. Only two markets have received Media Rating Council accreditation, in Houston and Riverside-San Bernardino.

Arbitron was not immediately available for comment.