Florida A.G. Files Suit Against Arbitron

Arbitron’s problems with the rollout of its portable people meter service just won’t go away.

The Florida Attorney General Tuesday (July 14) filed suit against Arbitron in an attempt to prevent the ratings company from releasing its portable people meter ratings in Miami.

In response, Arbitron turned around and moved up the commercialization of the PPM ratings in Miami by two days from July 16 to July 14, releasing the market’s first PPM ratings to customers.

“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 Michael Skarzynski, CEO and president of Arbitron.

The events are practically a repeat of New York in October 2008 when Arbitron released PPM ratings ahead of schedule to fend off action from the New York Attorney General. Arbitron has since settled with the NYAG, the New Jersey Attorney General and the Maryland Attorney General.

In its filing, the Florida Attorney General called Arbitron’s PPM ratings “flawed.” “This flawed methodology systematically undercounts African American, Hispanic and other minority listeners and would dramatically reduce the ratings of numerous radio stations with large minority audiences in the Miami area and elsewhere in Florida, jeopardizing their existence.”

The Florida Attorney General is one more headache for Arbitron in Miami. Univision Communications has refused to sign for the PPM in Miami, Phoenix and San Diego, and has refused to encode its signals. As a result, the first PPM ratings for those markets, set originally for release July 16, will not include the Univision stations, leaving buyers without a complete picture of radio listening.

Arbitron is also dealing with inquiries from both the Federal Communications Commission and the House Judiciary Committee.