NEWS12 February 2010

Court orders Spanish radio broadcaster to resume PPM encoding

Legal North America

US— Arbitron has been granted a temporary restraining order to force a radio broadcaster to resume encoding its broadcasts so that they can be detected by the firm’s portable people meter (PPM) technology.

The radio ratings firm was granted the injunction after learning on 4 February that Spanish Broadcasting System had stopped encoding its transmissions in cities where Arbitron has commercialised the PPM system. The temporary restraining order applies to nine SBS stations in five US cities and is valid until 16 February.

A court hearing will be held on that date to decide whether to continue to compel SBS to encode its programming. Timothy Smith, Arbitron’s chief legal office, said: “SBS has existing contracts with Arbitron for both the PPM service and to encode its broadcast signals that remain in effect. We expect SBS to honour the terms of the agreements.”

Arbitron said it suspended delivery of PPM data to SBS in December 2009.

Spanish Broadcast System has been one of the more vocal opponents to the introduction of the PPM system, which some minority-owned broadcasters claim undercounts their audience. In June 2008, SBS was one of several Spanish-language broadcasters to form a coalition raising concerns over the “potentially harmful impact” of PPM technology on their stations.

At the time, SBS chief executive Raul Alarcon said: “Ensuring that the next generation of audience measurement is accurately developed, tested, accredited, and ultimately accepted by the entire radio industry, is of critical importance. The Hispanic population has been suppressed for too long.”

Later that year, the broadcaster took part in a demonstration at City Hall in Manhattan to protest against the technology. SBS did not return calls seeking comment at the time of publication.