Radio audience ratings company Arbitron Inc. says it is paying $400,000 to settle a case in California in which it was accused of under-representing black and Hispanic listeners in its surveys in the state’s largest cities.
Lawyers for the state and the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco said Arbitron’s “Portable People Meters” system “dramatically” under-recruited from those populations when it began in 2008.
Arbitron found participants mainly by calling land-line telephones, a process that tends to under-represent minority populations.
The government attorneys said the shortfall of black and Latino participants resulted in a sharp drop in advertising rates and revenue for many radio stations that serve black and Hispanic communities.
The settlement announced Monday mandates that Arbitron change its methods by December to count minority listeners more accurately.
Portable People Meters have been controversial since their introduction.
In 2009, Arbitron settled lawsuits brought by the states of New York and New Jersey claiming the company’s marketing and commercialization of the service violated consumer fraud and civil rights laws. The company agreed as part of that $490,000 settlement to take steps to ensure its ratings panels are racially diverse.
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