Friday, June 29, 2018



Last Monday (6/25) we featured an investigative story [link] about a program distributor, based at UT-Austin, who is promoting a two-minutes modular program called EarthDate. The program presents tidbits about geology and is sponsored by a large international oil drilling and processing company.

EarthDate got into trouble because they claimed in promotional material that 300 stations were carrying the module when few, if any, actually were airing it.

Spark News learned that the bogus carriage list happened when the person in charge of marketing the program admitted to us that if he hadn’t heard back from a station, he assumed they were carrying EarthDate.


Mike Saffran
Mike Saffran from 89.3 WGSU – Geneseo’s Voice of the Valley – wrote:

Great investigative piece, Ken! I’m sure College Broadcasters members, especially, are appreciative [the story] is highly informative – and educational for all.

I think the situation of ‘false carriage,’ as described with “EarthDate,” is also fairly common in the record-promotion world. We (and other stations, I’m sure) occasionally receive “thanks” from artists/bands for playing their music … even when we’re not airing it.

I can only guess that a record promoter who merely sent us the music told the bands we’re playing it … with the same result: ‘Implied endorsement … willful misrepresentation … destroyed trust.’
Conversely, the good promoters (and there are many of them, too) don’t do that.


Steve Robinson
Steve Robinson, recently retired General Manager of WFMT-FM and the WFMT Radio Network wrote:

You are spot on about the way a carriage list can be inflated by putting in every translator, repeater and set of false teeth that receive the signal with no explanation about the differences.

When I became manager of the WFMT Radio Network in 2002 the first thing I did was to separate out the main channel stations from the repeaters and translators. I made sure anyone getting the Network’s carriage lists knew the distinction.

The notion that someone would send a CD to a station and not hearing back assume that station is taking the program is reprehensible and I’m sure everyone thanks you for tracking this down and putting a stop to it.

KEN SAYS: I agree with Steve Robinson. If we tolerate someone that provides made-up carriage lists to people outside our industry, such as foundations and underwriters, it makes all us of us look like we don't know what we are doing.


On June 10th [link] we presented our first Weakest Link Award to WKNO, Memphis to point out their consistently poor ratings performance, senior management neglect and bonehead moves like selling their potential second signals to a religious broadcaster instead of building a second programming stream.

The purpose of the Weakest Link Award is to urge the management of sub-par, clueless stations to admit they have problems and urge them to improve their programming and community service. We tried several times to contact the people in charge and we have not received a reply. 

We urge our readers to send us suggestions for other stations that deserve the Weakest Link Award.


An anonymous reader wrote:

Shame on YOU, Ken. Using Nielsen numbers...especially the publicly-available shame a station is the height of hubris and arrogance.

We already know the numbers, especially the PPM numbers, cannot be trusted as anything like an accurate measurement of audience.

Why not use IRS990 and CPB audited financial statements (both publicly available) as a much better indication of how much community support WKNO has? Which is, after all, the only audience measurement that really matters.


The Program Director of a large NPR News/Talk station, who ask us not to use his/her name, wrote:

Thanks for the great story. I wondered if I was the only PD in pub-radio that felt the same way about WKNO. With no disrespect to the fine folks who work at WKNO, the management there only cares about their PBS-TV station. They have missed many opportunities to upgrade WKNO-FM.

KEN SAYS: We consider this to be a “speak truth to power” moment. It would be more polite to quote the boilerplate accolades WKNO likely sent to CPB. But, this is a time for action and change, not more bureaucratic feel-goods. People in Memphis deserve better.

Regarding our use of Nielsen Audio ratings data, we know there are questions about Nielsen’s methodology. But, that isn’t the point. Nielsen’s ESTIMATES are the national standard – the currency of the media industry. Over our years in the biz, we’ve found that the people who complain most about the ratings are the people who work for stations that don’t do well in the ratings. The facts show WKNO has not performed well in the Nielsen ratings for many years.


On June 19th we published [link] a list of the Top 30 noncommercial radio stations based on estimates of weekly listeners (a/k/a cume) in Nielsen Audio’s May 2018 PPM reports. We received this comment from Steven Chrypinski, Director of Marketing for Michigan Radio based in Ann Arbor:

Steven Chrypinski
I can think of one more station to add to your list of top 30 non-comms, at least as far as weekly cume is concerned. Michigan Radio serves six Nielsen metros across southern Michigan (Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Flint, Lansing and Kalamazoo).

Although the station's weekly cume in Detroit alone doesn’t crack this list, Michigan Radio has a total weekly cume across all of these markets of 510,100, according to the most recent Nielsen National Regional Database (Fall 2017). That would put Michigan Radio at #9 on this list.

Of course, there are other stations on this list, like OPB and Minnesota Public Radio, that have significant listening audiences that extend beyond their home markets also. It would be interesting if there were a way to compare the total broadcast audience of stations and station networks, beyond just their home markets.

KEN SAYS: Always good to hear from you Steve. We are aware of Michigan Radio’s excellent statewide ratings performance in markets outside of the Detroit metro. As you know, we based our recent Top 30 list solely on data from the May 2018 PPM ratings. The out-state markets you mentioned are cities where Nielsen’s Diary methodology is used.

We have talked about Michigan Radio’s stellar performance in other Michigan markets, particularly in Grand Rapids. The chart on the left shows the composite weekly cumulative listeners to Michigan Radio outside of Detroit in Fall 2016 compared with Fall 2015.

We will take your suggestion and look at multiple-station regional networks when the Spring 2018 Diary market numbers are released later in July,

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