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October 10 , 2008

Congresswoman Velázquez Protects Vitality of Local Minority Radio Stations


NEW YORK – Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) was joined today by a coalition of local radio broadcasters to safeguard a critical source of information for New York City’s Hispanic and African American communities.  Arbitron Inc.’s Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings, released earlier this week, drastically cut numbers for minority radio stations and demonstrated that the company is out of touch with minority listeners.  The new system threatens to force Spanish-language and urban programming off the air, eliminating a critical voice for New York City.  

“Arbitron clearly doesn’t understand our community, and their faulty data now jeopardizes the diversity of our airwaves,” Congresswoman Velázquez said. “It is putting at risk free speech for each and every member of New York City’s minority population.”

African Americans and Hispanics have the highest radio listening levels of all demographic groups, and have kept minority stations in the top rankings.  Yet the Portable People Meter’s flawed system for calculating the number of listeners showed large drops for minority stations.  In New York City, three minority stations were previously ranked in the Top 5, yet none reached that high on the PPM list.  These inaccurate ratings threaten to disenfranchise minority communities, will harm media diversity and have a devastating impact on small stations. 

“As the only company that compiles listener data, Arbitron has recklessly ignored their responsibility to provide trustworthy information,” Congresswoman Velázquez said. “With the overwhelming growth and impact that minority communities have on our City, I am committed to making sure that Latino and Black radio stations stay on the air and their listeners are adequately represented.”

Despite a lack of accreditation, Arbitron decided to move forward with releasing the PPM data.    As a result, advertisers will be less likely to choose minority stations and funding could dry up.  These broadcasters now stand to lose 30 to 40 percent of their annual revenues and many of these stations could be silenced.

“This new ratings system is so flawed that it has not been approved by the Media Ratings Council,” Congresswoman Velázquez said.  “Until Arbitron establishes an accurate way to measure radio station audiences, the data released earlier this week should be dismissed.”

Last week, Congresswoman Velázquez was joined by six of her colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) in calling for an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).   The group of legislators also wrote to Stephen B. Morris, President and CEO of Arbitron, urging the company to resolve errors in reporting before the new ratings were released. 


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