Adelstein backs investigating Arbitron ratings

by Amy Schatz, Wall Street Journal

A Democratic Federal Communications Commission member called Tuesday for the agency to launch a formal investigation of Arbitron Inc.'s new electronic radio-ratings system, raising the odds that the agency will look into the matter this year or early next year.

An FCC investigation would add significant pressure on Arbitron, which is already being investigated by the attorneys general in New York and New Jersey about the ratings system.

Minority broadcasters and interest groups say Arbitron's Portable People Meter system significantly undercounts minority listenership.

Jonathan Adelstein, a Democratic FCC commissioner, asked current FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to open a formal investigation into the Arbitron system. "We have heard from numerous broadcasters and advocates for diversity that the continued deployment of [Arbitron's new system] in new markets without accreditation from Media Ratings Council constitutes a clear and present danger to media diversity," Mr. Adelstein wrote in a letter released Tuesday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Martin said he had no comment on the request.

"Arbitron does not believe that the FCC has jurisdiction over the company," a company spokesman said. The commission "lacks the authority to launch an investigation."

The company says it developed the new system in consultation with the radio industry and the ratings-measurement company delayed rolling out the system in nine markets to address concerns.

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