The recent Arbitron ratings showed that the three local rock stations -- Rock 105, 91X, FM-94/9 -- each showed a significant decrease in listeners for the October-through-December quarter.
Rock 105 lost 41 percent of its audience from the previous quarter, according to Arbitron. FM 94/9 lost a fourth (both stations tied for 17th place). Meanwhile, 91X was ranked 24th, posting its worst ratings in 22 years.
One radio insider says it's more about Hispanics living at home and the proliferation of cell phones than it is about a change in music preference.
He notes that ratings for the Spanish-speaking stations showed corresponding huge increases in the new Arbitron survey.
"A lot of young men don't have land lines. They all have cell phones." That means they cannot be contacted by Arbitron, which sends out diaries to listeners only after they are contacted by phone.
"Because Arbitron relies on people who are listed in the phone book, they have become a defective ratings service."
FM-94/9 program director Garett Michaels said he is not panicking. "We're not changing a damn thing. We are not going to make knee-jerk reactions based on one ratings book."
A call to Arbitron representative Rob Winston about the company's polling practices was not returned.