In a move crafted to pre-empt any attempt to block the rollout of Arbitron's Portable People Meter (PPM), the ratings company announced on Monday (Oct. 6) that it has commercialized its electronic radio ratings services in eight new markets. Moving up the scheduled release of the PPM data by two days, Arbitron has released "currency" radio audience estimates for the September 2008 PPM survey month (August 21-September 17) to its subscribers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Nassau-Suffolk, Middlesex-Somerset-Union, Riverside-San Bernardino and San Jose.

Effective Monday, Arbitron says the PPM radio audience estimates for these markets should be used as the basis for buy/sell transactions of radio commercial time among subscribing stations, agencies and advertisers. In addition, the July and August PPM survey months, which Arbitron had previously released as "pre-currency" information, are now designated as "currency" data. The spring 2008 diary-based radio audience report (April 3-June 25) is no longer deemed "currency" for buy/sell transactions.

Arbitron chairman/president/CEO Steve Morris says, "We are commercializing our Portable People Meter radio ratings services in these markets in order to meet our obligations to our customers and to the radio industry." He adds, "Without PPM, the industry will not have up-to-date estimates of the radio audience in the nation's largest markets to facilitate an efficient buy-sell process for radio advertising. Advertisers are in the process of planning their ad budgets for all media including radio. Our goal with the commercialization of the PPM is to help radio remain competitive in an increasingly challenging media marketplace."

Arbitron also announced Monday morning that it has asked the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against New York State attorney general Andrew Cuomo to prevent any attempt to restrain Arbitron's publication of its Portable People Meter data.

The company stated that any restraint on the publication of its PPM listening estimates would have an adverse impact on the radio broadcast industry and advertising industries as a whole, would cause Arbitron's business to suffer severe irreparable harm, would cause economic injury to Arbitron's shareholders and violates the company's First Amendment rights to publish its radio audience listening estimates.

Among other things, the company is seeking the following relief:

- A judgment declaring that the publication of its PPM listening estimates is fully protected by the U.S. and New York Constitutions
- A preliminary and permanent injunction along with a temporary restraining order enjoining the New York attorney general from attempting to restrain or prevent Arbitron from publishing its PPM listening estimates.

Commenting on the company's move to seek a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against N.Y. AG Cuomo, Morris says, "Arbitron publicly announced in November 2007 that we intended to commercialize our Portable People Meter radio ratings service in New York with the release of the September 2008 PPM survey report on Oct. 8, 2008. The New York attorney general has waited until Oct. 2, less than a week before our scheduled commercialization, to notify Arbitron that his office intends to bring a lawsuit seeking to enjoin alleged violations of New York law. Such conduct is unfair to Arbitron and is unfair to the radio and advertising industries. We are asking the United States District Court to uphold our First Amendment rights and to prevent the New York attorney general from attempting to restrain publication of our Portable People Meter listening estimates."

In an Oct. 2 letter to Morris, Cuomo said he would file suit against Arbitron to stop the company's rollout of PPM in the Empire State. The N.Y. AG alleges that Arbitron has engaged in "unlawful and deceptive acts and practices" in connection with "the marketing and planned commercialization in New York of the Portable People Meter (PPM) methodology."

Cuomo's notice came nearly three weeks after his office subpoenaed Arbitron over what it called "a significant and improper decline in ratings under the PPM methodology" that "could cause minority stations to suffer drastic reductions in advertising revenues." On Sept. 15, New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram issued her own subpoena "concerning allegations that [Arbitron's] new method for measuring radio station listenership in New Jersey is flawed, statistically unreliable and undercounts the listening habits of minority consumers."

Responding to Cuomo's notice late Friday (Oct. 3), the PPM Coalition, whose members include the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, Border Media Partners, Entravision, Inner City Broadcasting, The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, NABOB, SBS Radio, the Spanish Radio Association and Univision Radio, applauded Cuomo "for taking action to protect radio listeners from Arbitron's new radio ratings system that undercounts the listening preferences of Hispanics, African Americans and other minorities."

Additional reporting by Jeffrey Yorke