Florida AG sues Arbitron over PPM


The latest “me too” lawsuit against Arbitron claiming that its Portable People Meter (PPM) methodology undercounts minority listeners comes from Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. He’s the fourth state AG to file such a lawsuit, but the first Republican.

McCollum has asked a state court in Miami to bar release of PPM data until Arbitron wins Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation for the service. Arbitron, however, has outmaneuvered him by declaring PPM currency in Miami as of yesterday (7/14).

“Effective July 14, 2009, the PPM radio audience estimates for this market should be used as the basis for buy/sell transactions of radio commercial time among subscribing stations, agencies and advertisers. In addition, the April and May PPM survey months, which Arbitron had previously released as ‘pre-currency’ information, are now designated as ‘currency’ data. The Winter 2009 diary-based radio audience report (January 8 – April 1, 2009) is no longer deemed ‘currency’ for buy/sell transactions,” Arbitron announced.

“We are commercializing our Portable People Meter radio ratings service in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood in order to meet our obligations to our customers and to the radio industry at large,” said Arbitron CEO Michael Skarzynski in a statement which made no mention of the lawsuit.

The Florida AG claims that “Arbitron’s sampling methodology produces unreliable ratings that significantly undercount minority listeners and has thus far failed to achieve accreditation in most markets.”

In seeking to block release of the Miami PPM data, McCollum’s lawsuit claims that “releasing these ratings will negatively affect stations that air programming targeted to minorities because these stations will not be able to sufficiently compete for advertising revenue.”

RBR/TVBR observation: Why did McCollum, usually a reasonable person, file this stupid lawsuit? He’s running for Governor. 

Unless the AG finds a judge who doesn’t think the First Amendment applies in Florida, we would not expect the release of Miami’s PPM data to be enjoined. But then, there are inept judges in every state.