It was a rare moment of bravery in the Voltair saga when Nielsen’s Arun Ramaswamy invited audience questions during the recent IEEE Broadcast Technology Symposium.
After months of Nielsen’s stone-walling silence, non-statement statements about Voltair, and the company’s representatives refusing to answer any questions during their three previous presentations, Nielsen’s Chief Engineer opened the floor to questions.
What do you do to make broadcasters feel good about turning off Voltairs (given Nielsen’s “enhanced” encoding)?
As we reported here earlier, Dr. Ramaswamy first seemed to dodge the question, assuring broadcast engineers that Nielsen was watching out for them, that Nielsen was committed to continuous improvement.
It is debatable whether that’s true given that there’s no evidence that the company’s engineers took any interest in improving PPM’s accuracy until Voltair demonstrated that PPM encoding was flawed.
However, it was when Dr. Ramaswamy finally got around to actually answering the audience member’s question that we heard frank candor.
Here’s how he answered the question:
The technology improvement that we are bringing to the table essentially addresses some of the improvements that were needed: introducing the data validity despite fairly liberal editing and crediting rules.
And in my opinion (there is) always the risk if you add more amplification to something that is leveraging the masking energy you will certainly start distorting and then you cross a boundary.
And you may find out you don’t need all the detections, going from two detections to four detections you may not need it.
So that’s where I will leave it at, that we’re not publically endorsing (Voltair). That’s our position.
It appears Voltair is safe for now.
Nielsen’s Chief Engineer, the technical face of PPM, says that you may not need it, it could create problems, but Nielsen is not banning Voltair.
Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story.
Until more Voltair users upgrade their encoders we won’t know for sure whether Voltair and “enhanced” encoding really do play nice together.
Beyond Voltair there remain many questions about PPM. Nielsen has thus far refused to explain the specific changes that were made to “enhance” encoding–-even during the technical presentation.
Is the patch an interim solution while Nielsen looks for more effective improvements, or is this it?
If this is it, that Nielsen considers the problem solved, does that mean PPM is now truly “format blind?” In other words, does PPM now work equally well across all formats and programming material?
And why, if the solution fits on a USB memory stick, has it taken Nielsen two years to fix it?
There’s also the question of a review of PPM’s editing rules.
Nielsen continually reminds broadcasters that PPM is not just a meter. It’s an entire ecosystem.
There are a whole host of other components that impact ratings including editing rules, how listening credit is handed out.
During its first client presentation regarding Voltair Nielsen mentioned that the company would be reviewing PPM’s editing rules. We’ve heard virtually nothing on the subject since then.
Is Nielsen still looking at changing the rules?
And this list is just a portion of issues that remain.
While Nielsen’s willingness to tweak PPM encoders is encouraging, Dr. Ramaswamy promised broadcasters transparency, continual improvement, and a steady pipeline of PPM innovation.
So what’s in the pipeline?