The recent announcement by international media measurement firm Nielsen that it will buy radio ratings and media research company Arbitron is being met with cautious optimism by black radio and multicultural media institutions.
“Nielsen’s acquisition of Arbitron is welcome news for multicultural entrepreneurs, programmers and audiences,” David Honig, president of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council told Target Market News. “Nielsen has unparalleled expertise in accurately measuring multicultural viewership… it’s reassuring that the leading audience measurement company has such an outstanding record of accurately and thoroughly measuring multicultural populations across several technologies.”
Added Jim Winston, executive director of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, “We are concerned that such mergers often result in rate increases to customers, and we would not want to see that happen. We are cautiously optimistic that this will be very good news for the television and radio industries.”
In the past, urban radio has been at odds with the way Arbitron calculates multicultural listenership. In fact, the disputes even hit the halls of Congress. Due to challenges over its rating gathering methods by the PPM Coalition (made up of Black and Hispanic broadcasters), Arbitron testified to Congress in 2007 about its measurement techniques and the under-counting of minority listeners. Even The Media Ratings Council was unsatisfied with Arbitron’s methods and declined to certify Arbitron’s methods in all of its markets.
“Arbitron has found itself in a number of long standing legal disputes over its sampling of Black and Hispanic audiences. These grievances came to a head when the ratings measurement company introduced its Personal People Meter and once high-rated Urban stations fell from dominance in major markets,” reports Target Market News.
A fight even ensued in the courtroom when the Attorneys General of New York and New Jersey filed a lawsuit in 2008 against Arbitron’s measurement of Black and Hispanic listeners. A settlement was reached: Arbitron paid $260,000 for fraud and illegality, $100,000 to minority trade associations to support minority radio, and $25,000 for an ad campaign promoting minority radio. The Attorneys General of Florida and California also brought suits against the company, which too were settled.
Nielsen, on the other hand, has expanded its efforts of reporting minority ratings. According to Target Market News, “It has created external advisory councils representing communities of color, instituted a minority supplier development initiative, and reached out to Black, Hispanic and Asian consumers through numerous public relations efforts.”