Radio wars are common, but when Arbitron identifies a "ratings distortion" by a station, it's a rarity.
Last week, Arbitron told advertisers that Clear Channel--owned KUSS ("U.S. 95.7," a country station) had ratings numbers that may be higher than they should be.
According to Arbitron, KUSS morning disc jockey Tony Randall said on the air: "When people ask you what you listen to, you tell them us.... Say, 'Oh yeah, I listen all the time....' I don't care if you miss a day, you say you listened...." Arbitron takes it seriously when stations ask listeners to report false listening habits. Another reason Arbitron says it flagged the KUSS ratings is because KUSS maintained that "improved ratings performance is necessary for the station to survive."
Clear Channel programming VP Jim Richards said, "I don't believe the things [DJs] Tony and Kris [Rochester] spoke of have a direct result in any increase or decrease in U.S. 95.7's reported listenership.... [Competitor] KSON is grasping at straws. They are trying to find anything that may show that we had an unfair increase in ratings." Richards admits he had discussions with Randall and Rochester to make sure they "fully understand what can and cannot be said on the air."
KSON general manager Darrel Goodin responds: "Jim's morning show broke...fundamental Arbitron rules. [Randall and Rochester] worked for us for 11 years. [The duo left KSON in January 2004.] I can assure you that they understood the rules."
One radio veteran said it's been 20 years since Arbitron flagged a San Diego station in their book because of possible ratings distortion.