A PPM-related piece that appeared in RBR’s “Viewpoint” category recently included a statement asserting that the MRC doesn’t consider the technical aspects of a meter in its accreditation process. That’s not the case at all; MRC auditors spend literally hundreds of hours testing the technology of any metered measurement system that we consider for accreditation, both in laboratory settings as well as in a variety of real world environments. So that assessment is very much a part of our process, whether it’s for Nielsen TV meters, or Arbitron PPMs, or online measurement systems, or any other measurement approach that relies a technological component to determine audiences.
It’s also relevant to note that it’s because of our requirement that measurement services seeking MRC accreditation submit all aspects of their services to our audit process, including highly proprietary details such as the technology that underlies their metering systems, that we have strict rules in place for maintaining the confidentiality of audit-related information. In fact, it was the U.S. Congress who originally recommended that MRC adopt this strong confidentiality policy at the time of our organization’s inception in the 1960s.
We'll have to take Mr. Gunzerath's word on that. If you go to the MRC web site here, you'll find very little information. If you dig deeply enough, you may stumble on Minimum Standards for Media Rating Research, a twelve page single spaced document that makes no mention of technical requirements.
If you navigate over to their education page, you'll find many PDF files, none of which have anything to do with electronic measurement. In fact, the whole web site has kind of a 1960's feel to it.
The MRC is a curious organization. They operate at a level of secrecy right out of National Treasure: Book of Secrets. We know more about the election of a Pope than the MRC accreditation process. Mr. Gunzerath claims that the MRC spends hundreds of hours testing the technology of metered systems, but how would a broadcater know that?
What do we really know about the process? Do we know anything that would aid in judging the validity of the tests, the thoroughness of the tests, or what the MRC considers acceptable? No. Mr. Gunzerath invokes the U.S. Congress to tell us that nothing can be shared, lest the MRC and its methods be open to judgment and critique. Opacity in these matters protects power and the powerful.
Elsewhere in in an accreditation update dated November 3, 2003 it is stated that:
MRC membership actively pursues research issues they consider priorities in an effort to improve the quality of research in the marketplace.
The MRC claims to actively pursue research issues. Oh really? To what end? What is the point if nothing can be shared. The MRC has shared nothing more than cryptic press releases regarding PPM. And if past behavior is any indication, we will never learn much more in the future.
Radio needs an organization like the Underwriters Laboratory with transparency and a clearly stated set of criteria for judging products, not a secret society that considers its highest priority to protect those that seek its approval.