Arbitron's People Meter Tracks Controversy

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Arbitron's People Meter Tracks Controversy

Mon Oct 13, 2008 @ 05:38PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

The noise over Arbitron's newest technology to track consumer exposure to media and entertainment is getting loud. Very loud.

The ratings company has introduced a device called the Portable People Meter. Randomly selected survey participants carry around this device, the size of a small cellphone, and it measures their television, radio, and other media habits.

Sounds simple, but the tiny device "is at the heart of a multibillion-dollar dispute in the radio business," according to the Washington Post.

Some minority groups say the technology has flaws that allow underestimates of minority and ethnic stations. As a result, opponents of PPM have successfully lobbied the attorney general offices of both New York and New Jersey to file lawsuits against the company on grounds that the device violates state anti-discrimination laws. Arbitron also sued New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo last week over its investigation. The subject has even entered the Presidential election foray, as Barack Obama wrote a letter to Arbitron President Steve Morris urging the company to delay the device.

The FCC is also investigating the issue, much to the consternation of other stations who don't like the idea of FCC interference.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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