A gadget that costs US$15,000 called Voltair is at the centre of a controversy amongst broadcasters and ratings companies, and this friction has spilled over into Canada.
The latest Numeris Portable People Metered ratings may or may not have been spiked by several AM and FM broadcasters in Toronto and at least one in Vancouver. The gadget helps to boost 'watermarked' content broadcast by radio stations, possibly boosting ratings by enhancing the PPMs ability detect content being broadcast.
Inside Radio magazine has asked the question, "Does Voltair expose a flaw in PPM encoding technology that substantively undercounts radio listening? Or is it the audio processing equivalent of snake oil?
"More than five months after Telcos handed one of the units over to Nielsen for testing, there’s still no definitive answer."
Numeris Canada is equally flummoxed. Ross Davies, Engagement Director with the ratings firm, responded to a text asking about whether radio stations in Canada are artificially boosting ratings using Voltair, saying there is no definitive answer as yet.
"It looks like stations that have Voltair have some instances where ratings increased and others where the numbers went down. What's to say if it was Voltair or station generated product adjustments that caused the change?
"That's why proper testing with the device needs to take place, which Numeris is doing now." Davies adds that "what is of critical importance to the industry right now is that we restore a level playing field until we learn more, which the broadcasters have all agreed to do."