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Published: Monday, 11/11/2002

Arbitron penalizes WVKS-FM

Arbitron has penalized WVKS-FM (92.5) for comments made earlier this year on its morning show. The ratings service said WVKS engaged in “activities that may have the potential to bias survey participants or distort survey results.”

As a result, Arbitron took the unusual step of listing WVKS “below the line” in its current ratings book. It is considered one of the most severe sanctions that Arbitron can impose upon a station.

Arbitron's summer survey of the Toledo market was conducted from June 27 to Sept. 18, and its 189-page report arrived at local stations in late October. Arbitron did not group WVKS with other Toledo stations. Instead, the Clear Channel-owned station appears by itself, below a line with the following disclaimer: “Station(s) Determined by Arbitron to Have Engaged in Activity(ies) with Ratings Bias or Distortion Potential.” A similar disclaimer appears in each of the 20-plus demographic sections.

It's believed to be the first time in at least a decade that Arbitron has penalized a Toledo station in this manner, local advertising sources say.

Nationally, of the 97 radio markets in which Arbitron conducted a summer survey, only one station -- WVKS -- was listed “below the line,” according to an Arbitron spokesman.

Arbitron printed an excerpt of a July 31 on-air discussion about the ratings. WVKS morning host Denny Schaffer told listeners about the ratings process, including the fact that Arbitron offers a nominal payment as an incentive for people to fill out ratings diaries and return them. In addition, he linked ratings success to a station's overall success.

According to Arbitron, Schaffer's comments “may prompt diarykeepers to overrreport listening to WVKS as a gesture of support or in the hope of receiving a monetary reward.”

Radio stations are prohibited from talking about the ratings process because Arbitron assures its clients that the ratings are not biased or distorted. (Radio stations use Arbitron to set advertising rates.)

“Our actions in this matter are intended to alert users of this report to activities that have been conducted in their market,” Arbitron said. In effect, Arbitron is telling the buyer -- in this case, the buyer of advertising on WVKS -- to beware. (Industry sources say the sanction is expected to have little impact on the station's local advertising revenue.)

Among listeners age 12-plus, WVKS was No. 3 overall in Arbitron's summer survey.

NEW HIRE: WNWO-TV, Channel 24, has hired LaCheryl Tucker as a reporter/fill-in anchor. She previously worked at WYTV in Youngstown. Meanwhile, Sylvania native Michael Kelting, a former weekend meteorologist at WUPW-TV, Channel 36, is working for WNWO on a freelance basis, appearing mainly on morning newscasts.

PAPER SHUFFLE: Jordan Lubetkin has resigned as editor of Toledo City Paper. His successor, Michael Miller, is scheduled to start today.



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