Court Orders Spanish Broadcasting System to Restore Arbitron Encoding

A court has ordered Spanish Broadcasting System to
reinstate, at least temporarily, the coding of its radio broadcasts for
measurement by Arbitron.

The Supreme Court of New York has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO)
against the Spanish Broadcasting System and scheduled a hearing Feb. 16 to
determine whether to make it permanent.

That came in response to Arbitron's request that the court force SBS to start
encoding its radio broadcasts under a June 2007 agreement.

The encoding allows Arbitron's Portable People Meters (PPMs) to record audience
information, a system that relies on encoding.

In the wake of that Arbitron filing and its allegations of breach of contract,
opponents of those meters called again on the FCC to investigate them for
alleged minority undercounts. 

According to Arbitron, it sought the TRO
after SBS stopped encoding the broadcasts at stations in New
York, Miami,
Chicago, L.A.
and San Francisco on Feb. 4.

SBS has been among those critical of the PPM system, which they and others
argue undercounts the Hispanic audience to the detriment of their advertising
rates. SBS also stopped paying its fees in 2009 and now owes over $2.5 million,
says Arbitron, which stopped providing SBS with the PPM data.

Arbitron said it would suffer "permanent and irreparable harm" if SBS
is not compelled to start coding its broadcasts.

"Arbitron's decision to obtain the requested relief by waiting until the
end of the day to file ex parte papers which SBS did not have the opportunity
to review prior to the hearing is telling," said counsel for SBS. "We
believe that a full airing of the evidence will lead to a drastically different

The PPM Coalition, of which SBS is a member and which has asked the FCC to
investigate the ratings methodology, asked the FCC again on Feb. 12 to
investigate the accuracy and reliability of the PPMs, citing what it called
Arbitron's "escalate attack on minority-targeted radio broadcasters."

PPM Coalition members include the National Association of Black Owned
Broadcasters, the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, Univision, and

Lastfall there was a House hearing on the PPM complaints, as well as an inquiry
by the Government Accountability office (GAO). That GAO report came after some complaintsabout the meters from constituents of House Oversight and Government ReformCommittee Chairman Edolphys Towns (D-N.Y.).

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.