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Post date: January 7 2009

Attorney General Cuomo Secures Landmark Agreement With Arbitron To Cure Defects In Radio Ratings System That Threatened To Drive Minority Broadcasters Out Of Business

NEW YORK, NY (January 7, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a groundbreaking agreement with Arbitron, the second largest media ratings service, requiring the company to overhaul its system for determining radio ratings in New York in response to allegations that minority listeners are undercounted.  The agreement resolves a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General in the New York Supreme Court in October 2008 against Arbitron for failing to disclose important flaws in the PPM methodology that inadequately represented African-American and Hispanic listening habits and deceptively claiming that its Portable People Meter (“PPM”) system is valid, fair, and representative of diverse radio markets.  The consent order filed with the Supreme Court outlines the ways in which Arbitron must take immediate action to improve PPM.

The agreement, which is the first of its kind in the nation, requires Arbitron to adopt new standards to cure flaws in its PPM methodology, which is used to measure radio listening habits.  Under the agreement, Arbitron must also pay $260,000 to settle claims of fraud and illegality that the Attorney General raised in his lawsuit regarding Arbitron’s use of the flawed methodology.  Further, Arbitron will make a contribution of $100,000 to the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and the Spanish Radio Association to support minority radio and fund an advertising campaign of at least $25,000 dedicated to promoting minority radio.

“The radio airwaves should represent the diversity of New York State,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “With this lawsuit, we sought to address the misrepresentation of a flawed product in the marketplace and its impact on the communities that need the most protection.  This agreement ensures that Arbitron will fairly measure radio listenership in New York and fairly represent New York’s diverse radio market.  As Arbitron works to improve this product, which should not have been released in its current form, my office will aggressively hold Arbitron to rigorous standards to make PPM a better product.”

The agreement requires Arbitron to:

  • Pay $260,000 to resolve claims of fraud and illegality;
  • Pay $100,000 to minority trade associations to support minority radio;
  • Cure key flaws and substantially improve the PPM methodology in New York by, for example, increasing the recruitment of individuals who only use cell-phones (a disproportionate percentage who are racial minorities) and ensuring that a higher proportion of panelists across racial demographics successfully operate the PPM;
  • Fund a study, overseen by the Attorney General, to determine and cure measurable bias the PPM methodology may have on racial minorities;
  • Fund an advertising campaign of at least $25,000 dedicated to promoting minority radio; and
  • Obtain accreditation from the Media Rating Council.

Benjamin Jealous, President of the NAACP stated, “We commend New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for fighting against unfairness and discrimination in the radio marketplace.  Arbitron attempted to use a methodology that dramatically undercounts and misrepresents the listening habits of racial and ethnic minorities.  With this Agreement, the Attorney General is holding Arbitron accountable for making sure that minorities are represented.  Given that radio stations owned and operated by African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities are critical channels of communication into our communities, we cannot underestimate the importance of this Agreement.”  

The ICBC Broadcast Holdings, Inc., Spanish Broadcast Systems, and Univision Communications, Inc. issued the following statement:   “We deeply appreciate Attorney General Cuomo's commitment to ensuring that Arbitron complies with the law.  Arbitron’s implementation of its unaccredited and misleading PPM system has been devastating to radio stations serving African American and Hispanic citizens of New York.  We welcome the Attorney General’s requirement of accelerated actions by Arbitron to bring its flawed and discriminatory PPM system to a competence level which can be embraced by all broadcasters.  We thank and applaud Attorney General Cuomo for his leadership on this critically important civil rights issue.”

This case was handled by Alphonso B. David, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau, Spencer Freedman, Counsel to the Civil Rights Bureau, and Andrew J. Elmore, Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Bureau.


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