Steroid-UseImagine a playing field where a few of the players could tilt the field to their advantage. It’s a common scenario in sports, where some play by the rules and others take steroids for a hidden gain. You’d think that the creator of the field would quickly seek to rectify the situation for a fair game, as pro sports leagues attempt to do. The “Voltair” black box processor system purports to give radio stations an advantage in the Portable People Meter (PPM) game, but Nielsen, the creator and referee of the game, has been relatively mum.

The Voltair black box processor is a “PPM booster” that claims to push the encoded signal stronger into the meters, thus increasing a station’s ratings. We’ve heard rumors of this device since last year, but Voltair publically rolled out their system at this month’s NAB convention in Las Vegas. I contacted Nielsen in January asking about this device and received a “no comment.”

The history of radio ratings is littered with bogus methods to goose stations’ ratings. Until there are scientific tests to either debunk or substantiate the effectiveness of the Voltair black box processor, we can’t be certain of its effectiveness.

Here’s where the game’s creator and referee needs to step in. For the sake of its clients, Nielsen needs to take immediate action to assure that its many subscribers are competing on a level playing field. With high stakes advertising dollars at stake, some broadcasters believe they’ve found a way to goose the Portable People Meter (PPM) game.

Nielsen also needs to step in for the sake of radio in general. With the decades-long, slow-but-steady decrease in radio Time Spent Listening and Persons Using Radio, any improvement in measuring true radio listening levels should be embraced rather than ignored. If a PPM booster is good for the goose, then it’s good for the gander.