Thursday, January 25, 2007

ARB's Syracuse Surprise

I suppose it would be wise not to comment on things I don't fully understand or have any knowledge beyond what has been publicly reported, especially since our A&O Clear Channel/Syracuse pals at WBBS have another great #1 book and a nice 12.2-11.7-11.2-12.4 12+ trend and their best book in a year to celebrate, but heck voicing my opinion based on news reports and gossip has never stopped me up to now, so why should I start being "fair and balanced" today??

In November, the meteoric and sometimes opinionated Ed Levine of Galaxy Communications reportedly resigned from the Arbitron Affiliates Advisory Council, charging that ARB had an arrogant attitude. Within just a few weeks, at the ARB Consultants' Fly-In, the company's CEO Steve Morris said he failed to understand why Levine would say such a thing.

Now, from Inside Radio's Tom Taylor comes this report:
"Is this Arbitron’s punishment in Syracuse? It’s a selective embargo for non-subscribers.“Selective embargo” is our term for Arbitron’s startling new policy — but some radio operators may have more colorful language when they see some stations missing. Galaxy CEO Ed Levine — who publicly deserted Arbitron for Eastlan in early December — tells Inside Radio “The merging of Arbitron’s business interest with their research data is troubling and potentially explosive, with far-reaching results.” He says the partial numbers are misleading to the public. And from what we can tell the set of numbers Arbitron released to the press doesn’t indicate that some stations have been deleted. Interestingly — Arbitron does list the Galaxy outlets in another market (Albany). But not the Galaxy-owned stations in Syracuse such as classic rock WTKW (a 6.9 share 12+in the Summer book), “K-Rock” WKRL (a 4.2) and “Classic Country” WSCP (a 1.8). Here’s what Arbitron tells us — “This is a new policy for the trade press. It applies to two other markets besides Syracuse — Lincoln, NE and Burlington-Plattsburgh, NY.” They’ll be released in a couple of days — but minus some of the usual call letters. “Only subscribers get to see the Arbitron numbers” in Syracuse and two other markets. Yep, that’s the new policy — and the company tells us “This was an Arbitron decision. We did not consult with the Advisory Council on this matter.” If it sticks — watch the next moves of Galaxy CEO Ed Levine. In less than two months he’s gone from being a subscriber and the holder of a seat on the Advisory Council to an ex-subscriber whose Syracuse ratings can only be seen by subscribers at the station and agency level. He tells Inside Radio“This should be a wakeup call to the entire radio industry. Arbitron is not primarily a research company, they are a sales organization.” As for the delisting — “Today it is a non-subscriber in Syracuse. Tomorrow it may be anon-encoder in New York. This industry needs an alternative.” Arbitron’s occasionally embargoed entire markets. But this is different. In addition to watching Levine you should stay tuned to the Radio Advisory Council. This isn’tjust about some numbers on a page — it’s dollars and billing."

Replacing Levine on the AAAC is our longtime friend and trusted ally Michael Osterhout, the COO of Morris Radio Group. We could not have a better advocate. And, judging from ARB's reported stance in the above action and response, we absolutely need a great one a whole lot right now! If anyone has the courage to tell truth to power at ARB, I know that Osterhout is our guy.

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