Arbitron under fire again


In an urgent request to Arbitron from Clear Channel, Cumulus Media, Cox Radio, Radio One Inc.; that the ratings firm take immediate action to get issues resolved with sample size. The four groups want the sample of 18-34 and ethnic groups fixed and they want action within 30 days.

The letter speaks for itself.

November 14, 2007

Mr. Steve Morris
Mr. Pierre Bouvard
Mr. Owen Charlebois
The Arbitron Company142 West 57th StreetNew York, NY 10019

Gentlemen, It is with the utmost urgency and objection that we, your customers, send you this letter. All of us have been vocal supporters of the concept of electronic measurement in radio for several years – and we remain committed to the need for accurate, high quality electronic ratings as a way to program and sell our stations. As of this writing, the PPM system has been implemented in two markets for several months, with one month of information available in New York. To date, PPM has not provided accurate or reliable data for all demographic groups.

We are calling on you to take immediate action to resolve this. The most immediate issue is sample size – especially with regard to 18-34 year olds and ethnic groups. The situation is clear: To secure a legitimate representation of listener activity, the number of people participating in the PPM survey must be increased. Your recent proposal to lower the number of market-level respondents needed to issue a valid report for a specific demographic is both specious and dangerous. This proposal could result in some stations doing business based on the activity of as few as a single – one – listener. Your own researchers have concluded that such a sample size “has a greater range of error than the size of the estimate.”

There are many ethical and sound business choices that can be made by Arbitron here. One is to eliminate the 6-11 portion of the sample and reallocate those meters to participants in other demographics based on a 12+ population. Under any circumstance, we expect guaranteed in-tab delivery in the 18-54 age group for all age cells and across all ethnic groups, including Hispanics and African Americans.

Please be aware that this is a critical and immediate issue for your customers undersigned and we are expecting an action plan to correct these matters within 30 days.


Clear Channel Radio,
Cumulus Media,
Cox Radio,
Radio One Inc.