As we reported a couple of days ago, various Democratic politicians--including Barack Obama-- are mounting a frivilous attempt to block more accurate technology used to measure audiences for radio stations and other media.
And, sure enough, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has made good on his promise to file suit against Arbitron, the market research firm that developed the new technology. According to the New York Daily News, Cuomo's lawsuit claims that Arbitron's new Personal People Meters (PPMs) are unfair to minorities because they're "under-represented" in audience measurements. The suit also asks that the company reimburse minority broadcasters for revenue lost due to lower ratings.
While Cuomo has been threatening legal action for some time, Arbitron actually beat him to the punch. On Monday of this week, the firm filed its own suit, asking a New Jersey federal judge to prevent Mr. Cuomo from halting the roll-out of PPM technology in multiple markets. In its suit, Arbitron claims that the attorney general is violating its First Amendment rights.
As we've noted previously, Cuomo's suit is nothing more than pure political pandering. Under the new system, stations that are friendly to Democratic politicians (including those with urban and Hispanic formats) have seen their ratings dip. Meanwhile, outlets oriented toward an older audience (including talk stations) have picked up thousands of additional listeners who went uncounted before the advent of PPMs.
It's also a firm bet that Mr. Cuomo (and his allies) are concerned because conservative talk radio is among the beneficiaries of the new system. According to just-released ratings in New York City, WABC (the flagship for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin) is now #3 in the market, with its largest audience since its heyday as a Top 40 station.
Here's hoping that Cuomo's lawsuit is quickly dismissed, and Arbitron is allowed to proceed with the new system. By all accounts, PPMs are far more reliable than the antiquated "diary" method they replaced. Stations and advertisers have every right to accurate audience data to guide their advertising and programming decisions. Mr. Cuomo's legal stunt should be exposed for what it is--a feckless attempt to influence audience measurements for his friends in select media circles.
Someone needs to ask John McCain if he'd still like to nominate Andrew Cuomo for a position in his administration.