Che a seconda del contesto geografico metropolitano spesso non sono poi così minoritarie… Il fatto è che Arbitron misura l’ascolto con l’aiuto di una tecnologia “indossabile” che identifica i programmi veramente ascoltati. E le nuove classifiche di popolarità sono in molti casi totalmente diverse dalle precedenti: le radio etniche sono precipitate verso le soglie della più totale indifferenza da parte del pubblico e rischiano veramente grosso perché è sulla popolarità che il mercato pubblicitario americano misura il prezzo degli spot.
Nello stato di New York – rivela il New York Times – la avvocatura generale, rappresentata da Andrew Cuomo, figlio maggiore dell’ex governatore Mario, ha addirittura minacciato di denuciare Arbitron per aver volutamente agito per “sottorappresentare” il campione di cittadini appartenenti a una popolazione etnica in possesso dei famosi misuratori. Il difetto, insomma, starebbe nel campione selezionato in rappresentanza dell’intero universo di ascolto. E’ chiaro che se chiedo a nove bianchi e a un nero di dirmi quali sono i loro programmi radiofonici preferiti, le stazioni “Afro-American” non potrebbero risultare molto popolari.
Cuomo to Sue Radio Ratings Company, Claiming Minorities Are Underrepresented
By BRIAN STELTER
October 6, 2008
As area radio stations received their first audience ratings generated through new measuring devices on Monday, the New York attorney general’s office warned broadcasters and advertisers not to rely on the numbers.
The office of the attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, said it planned to file a lawsuit this week against Arbitron, the company that compiles the data, because of concerns that minority listeners were not being adequately represented.
Mr. Cuomo’s office said it believed that the new ratings system, which relies on hand-held devices called portable people meters, did not adequately account for young African-Americans and Hispanics, people who do not speak English, and cellphone-only households.
Recruiting and retaining enough respondents from these demographic groups has proved difficult for Arbitron, leading some stations that cater to urban and ethnic audiences to claim that they are not being sufficiently counted.
Arbitron says that they are, and that the company will continue to improve in this area.
During testing periods for the people meters over the last year, the ratings for some minority broadcasters dropped noticeably, prompting concerns about the validity of the devices. Mr. Cuomo’s office began an investigation last month and intended to file a lawsuit against Arbitron by midweek.
For decades, Arbitron measured radio audiences by distributing diaries to listeners and relying on a representative sample of what stations they tuned in to each month. Arbitron has argued that the diary method was subject to errors of memory.
The people meters, in contrast, are carried by members of the ratings panel and automatically record radio signals. With people meters, the total audience for radio grows, because participants tend to listen to more radio than they remember in a given month, but the average audience for each station shrinks, because people switch stations more than they realize.
A coalition of minority radio broadcasters has claimed that the lower ratings recorded by the portable people meters would “disenfranchise minority communities and have a devastating impact on small businesses.”
The urban contemporary station WBLS, for example, was ranked No. 4 in diary-based ratings in the spring, but dropped to No. 11 in September’s people meter ratings. The Spanish-language station WCAA was ranked No. 5 in the spring, and No. 20 in September.
Arbitron denies the disenfranchisement charge, saying that some minority stations have received strong ratings through people meters. They say “The Steve Harvey Show” on WBLS tied for first place in September with the news station WINS among listeners ages 25 to 54.
Mr. Cuomo informed Arbitron last week of his intent to sue. On Monday, Arbitron released the people meter ratings for September, two days ahead of schedule, and requested a restraining order to prevent Mr. Cuomo from halting the publication of the ratings. The motion was denied.
Arbitron would not comment about the timing of the release of the ratings, which affected stations in New York City, Long Island and three New Jersey counties, as well as stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and smaller markets.
In a statement on Monday, Alex Detrick, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, cautioned stations and their advertisers against “using these prematurely released ratings as we believe they are flawed and will be the subject of ongoing litigation.”