NEWS17 February 2010

Court sides with Arbitron against SBS

Legal North America

US— A New York court has ordered radio station owner Spanish Broadcasting System to keep encoding its broadcasts so they can continue to be measured by Arbitron’s portable people meter-based ratings service.

Mediaweek reports that at a hearing yesterday the judge sided with Arbitron, allowing a temporary restraining order to stand – though it’s not clear for how long.

The wrangle between the two firms started last year when SBS reportedly refused to pay a licence to Arbitron after becoming dissatisfied with the PPM service.

Arbitron then stopped providing the broadcaster with PPM ratings in December and SBS responded by stopping the encoding of its broadcasts in early February.

In between court dates radio industry lobbyist the PPM Coalition, of which SBS is a member, entered the row and called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch an investigation into the PPM technology.

The coalition, along with other minority-owned broadcasters, has long-claimed that the PPM system undercounts their audiences and therefore damages their advertising revenue. Earlier this week, it said that its members were effectively forced to sign up to the service because of Arbitron’s position as a monopoly in the radio ratings market.

In the aftermath of yesterday’s decision in court, the PPM Coalition said in a statement published in Radio Business Report: “The PPM Coalition is disappointed that the New York State Court continued the injunction requiring Spanish Broadcasting System to encode its programming for Arbitron’s inaccurate ratings system. However, the court was concerned only with the contractual relationship between the parties and could not consider the more significant issue of the decimation of diversity on the nation’s airwaves.”

Neither Arbitron, SBS or the PPM Coalition had returned calls seeking comment at the time of going to press.