Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Folks who follow noncommercial radio ratings are watching several ongoing situations to see what happens: Will NPR News/Talk stations continue to add new weekly listeners after the “Trump bump?” Will Classical music stations continue their recent string of listening gains in big markets?

Perhaps the biggest question is how much longer can both WBUR and WGBH grow their number of weekly listeners before one station pulls away from the other. The battle between NPR News/Talk stations in Boston is unprecedented and exciting to watch.

According to the just released Nielsen Audio PPM estimates for September, the competition between the two stations is still extemely close. WBUR leads by 32,200 estimated weekly cumulative listeners and WGBH leads by .2 in AQH share.

Compared with September 2016, at the height of last year's election campaigns, WBUR is up by an estimated 84,500 weekly listeners and WGBH is up by 73,300. This listeners are the winners in this battle.

Most NPR News/Talk stations have made impressive gains in weekly listeners since September 2017. WNYC-FM added almost 160,000 weekly listeners. Also, Classical WQXR had 20% more weekly listeners in September 2017.

We are now seeing more Nielsen Audio estimates for K-Love stations (WKLV), the national satellite-delivered network owned by the Educational Media Foundation (EMF). Later this week we will be publishing an in-depth report on EMF.

In the Bay Area, KQED’s weekly cumulative listeners are up 12% in September 2017 over the previous year.  However KALW, which airs lots of weekly programs with narrower appeal, is down by 8%.

There is a surprise in Washington, DC. WAMU is down 5% in its September weekly listeners compared to September 2016.  However, WAMU is still number one in the market in AQH share. We will see next month if this a wobble or a trend for WAMU.

Also note that the Classical music stations (WQXR, KDFC & WETA) in three of today’s four markets have increased their number of estimated weekly listeners by double-digit percentages in the past year.


Ajit Pai
Last Thursday (9/28) Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai publicly asked Apple to activate FM radio chips that Pai claims are installed in Apple’s phones. However Apple says that iPhone 7 and 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them, nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals.”

Pai’s plea followed an announcement earlier last week by Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) that he is considering offering legislation that would require the FCC to take such an action.

The argument about FM radio chips is an example of regulation trying to catch up with technology.  Apple introduced their Smart Phones a decade ago. At that time, the FCC urged manufacturers to voluntarily include software in mobile devices to allow users to hear public safety warning on broadcast stations.

Most Android-based Smart Phones can receive FM broadcasts. Samsung, AT&T, and T-Mobile favor the requirement. But Apple, by far the biggest player in the market, won’t voluntarily comply.  Critics say that Apple fears the availability of “free music” will hurt their own music streaming services.

So, it is not as simple as “flipping a switch.”  The FCC could create a rule that will require FM radio chips be installed and activated.  However, this is unlikely to happen because  Chairman Pai opposes mandates. The ball is now in Senator Nelson's court.

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