Updated: N.Y. Court Orders SBS to Encode

Spanish Broadcasting System must continue to encode its signals for Arbitron’s portable people meter service in five markets. The ruling came Tuesday (Feb. 16) in the New York Supreme Court for the County of New York, which let stand the temporary restraining order it imposed on SBS last Thursday.

Arbitron sued SBS after the Spanish broadcaster pulled the PPM encoders Feb. 4 from its 9 radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Miami.

“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 for SBS.

The issue of encoding is critical to the credibility of Arbitron’s PPM service, which cannot produce ratings for stations unless radio signals are encoded. Arbitron’s service is already compromised in Miami, San Diego, Phoenix, San Antonio and Las Vegas. Those markets do not include ratings for Univision Communications, which last summer ceased subscribing to Arbitron’s PPM service in all markets except Houston and refused to encode in newer PPM markets.

SBS has not received Arbitron PPM ratings since December 2009. Both SBS and Arbitron claim the other party has failed to live up to its contractual obligations.

In response to Arbitron’s legal action, SBS and the other members of the PPM Coalition, once again attempted to involve the Federal Communications Commission, fired off a letter to the regulatory body last Friday.  

“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. That is why the Coalition has been looking to Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the state attorneys general to provide relief from this serious problem,” said the PPM Coalition in a statement.

Arbitron and the PPM Coalition have been at loggerheads for months over the PPM’s ability to accurately count minorities in its ratings service. During a Congressional hearing held in December, both parties agreed to come up with workable plan within 30 days to resolve the differences. But so far, no word of a plan, just Arbitron’s brief comments that the two parties were making progress.

Arbitron declined to comment.

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