SBS: Arbitron treats customers “with disdain”


In its first public comment on the lawsuit by Arbitron which has forced it to resume encoding for the Portable People Meter (PPM), Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) says it is Arbitron which has not lived up to its contractual obligations. SBS says it ultimately expects to prevail in court.

Here is the entire statement:

“SBS has been actively dealing with Arbitron, the sole provider of ratings information, since the introduction of PPM. As a member of both the PPM Coalition and the Spanish Radio Association (SRA), SBS has been one of the many outspoken critics of this new methodology. It has been and continues to be our contention that the PPM service unfairly discounts the listening audiences of both Urban and Hispanic communities. We have been consistent in our fight and have repeatedly asked that Arbitron gain accreditation from the MRC before implementing this methodology currency in any market. These pleas have been ignored by Arbitron, who has instead decided to continue its rollout despite being accredited in only two markets (they are currently in 33 markets).

We contend that Arbitron has not lived up to their contractual obligation to deliver reliable and accurate ratings.  After Arbitron refused our repeated demands to rectify the situation, we concluded that Arbitron repudiated the parties’ agreements.  If they were not going to provide us with reliable information, we saw no need to encode.

The court’s ruling on the temporary restraining order was measured based on a concern that other minority radio broadcasters would follow suit and turn-off their encoders.  This, of course, bespeaks to the bigger problem – minority broadcasters’ fundamental dissatisfaction with Arbitron’s PPM methodology. The court increased the bond amount to $250,000 to cover the losses that SBS may sustain during the interim period. While disappointed by the ruling, SBS looks forward to presenting a full defense and having the court adjudicate the full merits of the case.

‘Arbitron continues to treat its customers with disdain. We will abide by the judge’s order to encode while we await our day in court to dispute Arbitron’s claims and prove that we are truly the ones being harmed,’ said Frank Flores, Chief Revenue Officer of SBS.  ‘The fact the MRC, PPMC and Congress are continuing to meet with Arbitron to try to correct the flaws of PPM, undermines Arbitron’s contention that its PPM methodology is sound’.”

In the most recent development in court, a judge in Manhattan on Tuesday extended the temporary restraining order she issued last week which requires SBS to encode for PPM in New York and elsewhere pending a ruling on the validity of the contract terms or a successful mediation between Arbitron and SBS.