Presidential candidate Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, both Democratic senators from Illinois, have sent Arbitron president/CEO Steve Morris a letter expressing their concerns over the company's plans to continue rolling out PPM without Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation and have requested that further implementation be delayed until the MRC gives it the thumbs-up. While the pair acknowledge that a "properly implemented PPM system is more accurate" than Arbitron's diary methodology, Obama and Durbin say that the lack of MRC accreditation leads them to "only conclude that it does not accurately reflect the behavior of all consumers, including minorities."

Claiming that the implications of a poorly executed PPM system are "too serious to ignore," the senators have requested that Arbitron push back its planned rollout of PPM in eight markets -- including Chicago -- slated for next Wednesday, Oct. 8. Echoing the concerns already put out by the chairmen of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees regarding the potential harm to minority broadcasters under the current PPM methodology, Obama and Durbin urge Arbitron to get the MRC's stamp of approval before continuing with PPM rollout.

While the MRC's Voluntary Code of Conduct isn't mandatory, it does recommend that ratings companies receive accreditation before discontinuing their previous systems. Arbitron has received MRC accreditation for its PPM service in Houston, but has thus far failed to achieve the MRC seal of approval in the other PPM markets. "A voluntary code of conduct is worth only as much as the pledge of those to abide by it," the senators wrote. "We urge you to do so for the good of the market's and the public's faith in the data you produce."

Acknowledging the Obama/Durbin letter, Arbitron's Morris says, "Arbitron is following and will continue to follow the requirements of the Media Rating Council Voluntary Code of Conduct. The MRC's mission, as the industry organization that audits and accredits ratings services, has always been expressly predicated upon a process that is voluntary rather than mandatory."

Morris adds, "We support the MRC accreditation process and will continue to pursue accreditation in all markets, but the radio industry should not wait any longer for electronic audience measurement. Broadcasters, agencies, and advertisers in radio's top markets have long called for the adoption of a more precise and credible audience measurement tool. They have made it clear that the adoption of the Portable People Meter service is critical if radio is to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging media marketplace."