The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

28 April 2005

'South Park Conservatives' Author Questioned On Numbers

Franken: Ratings Not Available!

Testy On-Air Exchange With Brian C. Anderson

During a testy, but polite, interview with 'South Park Conservatives' author Brian C. Anderson, Air America host Al Franken asserted that radio ratings aren't available to the public!

That apparently was Franken's way of deflecting unpleasant questions about Air America's recent poor performance. It was likely also to suggest that Anderson was using incorrect, or outright phony, data!

I heard from Anderson a few minutes ago, he says the Radio Equalizer was cited as a source for ratings information (thought it seemed like a lot of liberals were crawling around here today).

Anderson mentioned some specific figures, from various cities, which seemed to catch Franken off-guard.

Remember, our pieces regarding radio ratings are carefully detailed, with links back to actual Arbitron data available at radio industry trade sites.

How could Franken not be aware that radio ratings are in fact available to the public? Has he not ever seen them in the New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Sun-Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, or the dozens of other papers in large cities that publish them on a regular basis?

And is it really possible that Franken never reviews industry trade websites, even though they fawn all over him, nearly every day?

Also, how did he not realize that Anderson would surely bring up this white-hot topic during the show?

Franken actually asserted that Anderson was wrong, that he couldn't possibly know how Air America was doing, because the data is a secret!

He's either delusional, or was afraid of the subject and needed a way to change it, quickly.

Anderson felt that contrary to how some other liberal hosts might behave, Franken treated him professionally, but was deflective at times.

Franken faulted Anderson for asserting that Air America broadcasts anti-American material. After what Randi Rhodes pulled on the air yesterday, with her simulated shooting of the President, isn't the case closed on this issue?

He also cited the instance of Rhodes claiming that the country is no better led today than if it were half-slave and half-free, which to Anderson, borders on Anti-Americanism.

Should conservatives such as Anderson bother to appear on other liberal talk shows? That's a subject of internal debate among radio and political types. Franken let Anderson get a word in edgewise, I'm not sure some of the others would be as accommodating.

Watch here for updates soon.

Update: Michelle Malkin, using her superior investigation skills, tracks down a web link to the audio of the show.

How can Franken really expect us to believe he's never heard of Radio & Records, All Access, RadioDailyNews, Inside Radio, or any of the other trades that publish ratings? He's in the business, these mags are probably stuffed in their mailboxes and sitting on the coffee tables in the office lounge.

A verbatim excerpt from Malkin's site:

Anderson: Listen Al, it's finally there for anybody to see. They can just check out the Arbitron ratings and uh...

Franken: Well they can't because they're they're the Arbitron ratings aren't public.

Anderson: No, they are. The quarterly ratings are public. You can look at them on this Radio Equalizer blog. He's posting them.


  • Did you even listen to this show at all? It was Anderson that had the numbers wrong. He didn’t even know that Air America had only been in the Southern Cal area for only two TWO months when the ratings came out. Anderson thought it was six.

    I think you are misleading your readers here. Al said they are not published. I just came from Arbitron and I can’t find them anywhere. There is a great deal of info there but no ratings. Now if they are found at OTHER SITES so what. His answer is still true.

    Now here you are not just misleading, you are (for whatever reason) LYING. Al NEVER said it was a “SECRET”. You just made that up. How do I know this? Good question. I have a RadioYourWay radio that allows me to record real time from the radio into mp3 format files and copy them over to my computer. I have a 22 megabyte mp3 file that I recorded today’s Al Franken Show. I replayed this 3 times and at no time did he say it was secret.

    You need to listen to this show. It was Anderson that didn’t have his facts in order. I mean come on. He didn’t have his facts strait.

    Have you heard the bit? By the way Randi Rhodes took responsibility for it because it was on her show, and she apologized for it even tho it wasn’t under her direct control. How many apologies have you heard for not finding any WMD’s?

    This Anti-American stuff seems to be a favorite phrase for you all on the right along with hate America, hate Bush and maybe hate my dog. I don’t get it.

    By Anonymous mickh, at 28 April, 2005 23:12  

  • Mick, we've linked to the ratings repeatedly on this site, they are available at trade publication sites. You will not find them on Arbitron's web site, they don't publish them there.

    Every ratings citation here is backed up with a link.

    As for Franken's show, apparently there's no transcript. My information came from Anderson's firsthand account of his interview and others who backed up his contentions.

    The word "secret" is in my piece, but it's paraphrased, not directly quoted from Franken. Which means it's there to convey the general argument Franken was making. If in reviewing the article, Anderson feels it was slightly inaccurate, he can let me know and we will change it.

    You're playing games here, by focusing on one word you say isn't on your recording, rather than the general point, which is that Franken tried to duck the issue of crappy ratings by challenging how Anderson could have them.

    Otherwise, he must be very unfamiliar with radio industry trade publications, hard to believe at this stage of the game.

    Your contention that Franken was only referring to ratings directly available from Arbitron's own website is silly. Obviously, they are available elsewhere, including having been published in many newspapers around the country. Items on this site have linked to some of them.

    As for Rhodes, her excuses don't fly. She's responsible for the content of her talk show. If a producer is airing material against her wishes, it's up to her to take control. Producers aren't allowed to add whatever they want to a program without getting clearance from the host and sometimes management as well. Her apology only resulted from a nationwide avalanche of publicity regarding the incident.

    The whole thing may have been a publicity stunt, if it was, it was a very successful effort.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 28 April, 2005 23:45  

  • "As for Franken's show, apparently there's no transcript".

    Probably true, but there is a free archive of each and every Air America program going back to the very beginning of the network.

    Not sure what kind of crack-investigative talent it took Michelle Maulkin to find it, but if this is all it takes for conservative journalists to earn such a title, so be it.

    As for the archives of conservative shows such as Limbaugh or O'Reilly, let alone any transcripts (or even a live stream), why does one have to pony up 5 bucks a month for it?

    "As for Rhodes...Her apology only resulted from a nationwide avalanche of publicity regarding the incident."

    Suddenly Drudge constitutes a nationwide avlanche? You need to get out more. Tell you what, "Google Randi Rhodes secret service" and see what kind of nationwide avalanche you get hit by. Make sure you're wearing your moon boots. Let's see, the first is (at least she owns up to her mistakes), then Drudge and Newmax (the inseperable dynamic duo), (now there's a mainstream liberal news outlet - didn't Cronkite get his start there?), and finally (which isn't even about this topic). What, no Fox news? They must be slipping.

    So, what exactly is it you want her to do? She apologized to both her listeners and the president, she took responsibility for it. Do you want her to resign? Should be sent to Camp C-Ray? What would appease this nationwide avalanche of public rage you're going on about?

    By Blogger Chris, at 29 April, 2005 02:52  

  • Brian,

    ‘On Secret’ The argument he was making is that it was NOT PUBLISHED on Arbitron. As you point out in your opening paragraph here. It’s not a ‘word game’ - it implies something that is not true nor what he said. What would have been so hard to say “because the data was not published”?

    He didn’t duck the issue of crappy ratings…he simply challenged the ACCURACY of Anderson’s numbers. Anderson was just wrong period. I have the TAPE. If you would like a copy I think I can edit it down to a reasonable size.

    Why all this interest in Air America’s ratings? I get the feeling that maybe there are some worried people out there. Is that the problem.

    One thing you didn’t talk about is the issue Anderson raised with Al about how he (Anderson) viewed Air America as having to much Negativity. Is he kidding. Have you gone down the Radio dial to the “RIGHT” . He’s just being funny right.

    I think the Post after mine answers the Randi Rhodes question.

    By Anonymous mickh, at 29 April, 2005 09:01  

  • Mickh is playing the same game all the lib's are playing. The 'arbitron' ratings are here:

    And AAR's suck.

    No one on the left wants to face that simple fact, so they obfuscate by veering the argument in a different direction. Simple question to mickh: According to the Arbitron ratings linked above how is AAR doing? Please spare me the talking points and simply answer good or bad.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29 April, 2005 10:18  

  • "Update: Michelle Malkin, using her superior investigation skills, tracks down a web link to the audio of the show." Really, superior investigation skills? It really takes an investigation to find AirAmericaPlace. Once Again, You people are brilliant. Logical Thinking, thrown out the window again by the Right. By the Way, I can find ratings on a blog too: "In June 2004, Arbitron ratings revealed that "The Al Franken Show" beat Rush Limbaugh's program in the New York market, with Franken getting a 3.4 rating versus a 3.2 rating by Limbaugh. Randi Rhodes also beat the shows of both Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly during the popular afternoon 'drivetime' hours a regular basis."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29 April, 2005 11:52  

  • Provide a link to the ratings your mention, are they 'Arbitron' ratings or some democratic underground spin numbers? Please provide a link supporting your claim that Franken beat Limbaugh in the 2004 Arbitrons. I'm waiting...........

    Arbitron Inc. (NYSE: ARB) is an international media and marketing research firm serving radio broadcasters, radio networks, cable companies, advertisers, advertising agencies, outdoor advertising companies and the online radio industry in the United States, Mexico and Europe. Through our Scarborough Research joint venture with VNU, Inc., Arbitron also provides media and marketing research services to the broadcast television, magazine, newspaper and online industries.

    We help media companies, advertisers and marketers understand media audiences and reach consumers more effectively. Our services and software help clients make sense of the marketplace, turn information into revenue and grow their businesses.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29 April, 2005 12:02  

  • Mr. Anonymous came in late to the conversation and obviously missed the point. The discussion was about “ARBITRON” get it “ARBITRON” not MyFavRatings or RatingsR-US “ARBITRON”.

    OK Mr. Anonymous lets check those ratings.

    Lets see now
    KIRO - DOWN .8
    KTTH - DOWN .5
    KVI - DOWN .4

    Drum roll…….
    KPTK UP .5 Oops


    By Anonymous mickh, at 30 April, 2005 00:12  

  • Post a *link* to the Aribtron ratings that show Franken beats Limbaugh...I posted a *link* to the Arbitrons that show AAR is in the ratings crapper, ( now its time for you to prove me wrong, post a link. I'm *still* wating.....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 30 April, 2005 07:56  

  • Mr. Anonymous said "Simple question to mickh: According to the Arbitron ratings linked above how is AAR doing? Please spare me the talking points and simply answer good or bad."

    Well I provided the answer... apparently Mr. Anonymous doesn't like it. All I hear is silence.

    Visit my Blog at

    By Anonymous mickh, at 30 April, 2005 12:50  

  • A lot of people don't understand the radio business at all, and Mr. Anderson is clearly one of them, along with several other folks on here.

    First, Arbitron releases very general ratings information on a delayed basis to media publications and other interested parties. That is what you see in those newspaper columns and other public sources. They provide a general ratings picture for the public, but are generally not very relevant for the industry. When you see off-site ratings, one has to be very careful how to interpret them, because it takes little effort to twist them into whatever you want. Arbitron sells ratings books to stations who subscribe to their service. It's very expensive and the important breakdown of ratings data is proprietary and copyrighted. You have to subscribe to get that data.

    Ratings are done for one reason - setting advertising rates for both the network and local affiliates. That's all folks in the radio business really care about. If they're up, your station gets to increase ad rates and potentially attract new business. If they're flat, that means ad rates will probably stay the same. If they're down considerably, that means a station is going to be discounting ad rates or giving their clients some "make goods" which means extra ad time to make up for an audience that just wasn't there in the numbers promised.

    A lot of columnists and talent use ratings for bragging rights. From the first day Air America signed on, there has been a fairly relentless attack on the concept of liberal talk radio from the conservative side. Last year, we were told nobody wants to hear liberal talk radio (a guy who was #18 in Philadelphia was telling that to Randi Rhodes on CNN, and she was #1 in her home market - now that Randi is on in his market, she beats him there too).

    Then we were told Air America has 14 listeners. That also turned out to be wrong.

    Lately we're told Air America is a failure because Bill Bennett's show was cleared on 100+ stations, more than any show on Air America. But most of the stations airing Bennett's show are in small markets and there is little issue in swapping one conservative talk show for another. Air America requires their affiliates to clear a minimum of three weekday shows + most of their weekend lineup - that means an affiliate has to basically commit to a wholesale format change.

    Now we're told Air America is failing because their ratings are tanking, but the numbers chosen were very selective and, in some cases, came from cities where Arbitron weighted ratings were used because the format change occured mid-book.

    The fact is, liberal talk radio is here to stay because there is finally some interesting talent out there, and it's not just on Air America. Democracy/Jones has the top-cleared liberal show, Ed Schultz, and he frequently bumps Randi Rhodes in many markets. WOR Radio has Lionel who is doing very well, especially against Savage.

    NPR is not liberal talk radio. If anything, it's inside-the-beltway establishment radio, especially with shows like Diane Rehm. Unfortunately for NPR, their ratings are suffering with the launch of Air America because liberal and moderates who fled to NPR to escape conservative talk radio have now fled from NPR to Air America, et al.

    A lot of columnists and bloggers who like to talk about Air America usually know zip about the radio business, and that makes most of their comments irrelevent.

    Air America ad rates have increased as their client list continues to grow. A lot of their sponsors don't take a political position - they air spots on both conservative and liberal talk stations. Their affiliate roster is also increasing.

    It is true that most of their new affiliates are part of a corporate owned radio cluster (Clear Channel, primarily). The station group owner flips one of their lower-powered, low rated AM outlets in a city to Air America. Most of the stations used to air oldies/Music of Your Life, sports talk, or second tier conservative talk (O'Reilly, Ingraham, Beck, etc.) When weighing the ratings in many of their markets, the worst the format flip has achieved is flat ratings. That's true with Entercom's WROC-AM Rochester which has seen virtually no ratings change when they flipped from conservative to liberal talk. But in most of these cases, the station group owner has spent virtually nothing promoting the format either, so word of mouth is about the only way people find out about Air America.

    In other cities, however, ratings growth has been impressive. In some cases, this is because the station's former format couldn't draw flies, but in others the programming itself is bringing in listeners. Randi Rhodes, in particular, is a major ratings powerhouse for drive time in a lot of cities.

    The radio industry has seen Air America as a credible format choice, and you can expect Air America to break at least the 75 affiliate mark by the end of this year, if not 100. Most of those affiliates will be in medium/large sized cities. Small markets are going to have a tougher time because the stations will have to commit a good part of their broadcast day to Air America programming. Remember, most conservative talk radio is provided on a barter basis (you get it free if you air our ads) and you only have to commit to one show (and you often can even choose how many hours of it you want).

    Clear Channel will continue to be the biggest radio group that will launch Air America, but also watch Entercom and Infinity.

    Turning to Randi Rhodes and the "bit" this is really a non-issue, especially in the radio business. It's playing into the conservative blogs because it's red meat, but nobody else cares. Radio station owners are far more concerned about the antics of their morning zoo-type hosts, Howard Stern, and show hosts like Opie and Anthony before they moved to XM. The bit never mentions President Bush and is basically a play on angry, armed old folks and social security.

    Rhodes has been down at WJNO doing the show remotely from Palm Beach during the week. Most of the production elements were dumped in from NY. Regardless of what happened, she apologized for it. Anyone who thinks Rhodes is responsible for every element of her show is also uninformed. She's an employee and doesn't own her show. Producers often do things that a show host won't know about, and station/network management can also put their hands in depending on if the show is local or national. For a show host to make a mistake is also not atypical. Rush Limbaugh used the word "blowjob" last week on his show, and he promptly apologized for it too. End of story.

    Matt Drudge is a regular listener to Randi Rhodes. When he heard the bit, he obviously theorized it would get her into hot water and published an unattributed report she was under investigation by the secret service. Drudge's reports often follow this pattern, and he rarely provides attribution, instead relying on phantom sources. The NY Post called the secret service and they knew nothing of it. There was no nationwide "avalanche" of reports on this. It was run by Drudge, which is what sparked Air America to "get the tape" quickly followed by the on air apology from Rhodes. After the apology first aired, the other reports taking Drudge's copy almost verbatim appeared in Newsmax and WorldNetDaily popped up, which are hardly surprising, and also have a distinct point of view in how they cover news. The right wing blogs then carried the story. The only broadcast coverage of this came from the opinion programs on cable news outlets, Fox News Channel, and talk radio.

    The fallout from this will be increased ratings for Rhodes as people tune her in to find out what she's all about, the "telephone game" effect on the right wing blogs which will continue to report on it, adding hype along the way (by June they'll have Rhodes directly demanding that listeners shoot the president), and a bashing point that will be used by conservative talk radio hosts to attack Air America (and Rhodes will also use her on-air apology to state that she can apologize when the current Administration never does). Meanwhile, the rest of the world moves on.

    By Anonymous P Dampier, at 30 April, 2005 22:04  

  • blah blah blah, the ratings that are posted are the ratings we have. Show me a *link* to a source that disputes the Arbitrons posted @ otherwise save the feeble attempt at obfuscating the crappy numbers AAR received in the Winter book.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 02 May, 2005 10:41  

  • P Dampier - If that's what Randi is counting on to give her ratings, AAR is in worse shape than even the Arbitrons show...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 02 May, 2005 11:51  

  • Did anyone here actually listen to the show? What Franken said was that numbers for the 18-54 demographic, as well as numbers for his show specifically, are not released to the public.

    Guess what? They're not. If they were, advertisers wouldn't pay for them and Arbitron would go broke.

    Raw numbers mean nothing to advertisers. They want specific demographics. While it is true that Conservative talk radio blows AA away in sheer numbers, AA draws a much younger (and more lucrative) audience.

    Franken has never claimed to beat Rush outright, he says that he beats Rush in the 18-54 demographic in key markets. Which is, no doubt, true.

    I can't link to it. Why? Because it's not published.

    Which is what he said.

    Just for fun, next time you're listening to conservative talk, pay attention to the ads. Who do you think is being targeted by the Craftmatic adjustable bed commercials? Then switch to AA and compare.

    I may not be able to see the numbers, but I sure can read between the lines.

    By Anonymous Rob Daniel, at 04 May, 2005 01:02  

  • By Byron York
    The Hill | May 4, 2005

    “This show is about...relentlessly hammering away at the Bush administration until they crack and crumble this November because, don’t get me wrong, friends, they are going down!”

    So said Al Franken, the comedian-turned-radio host-turned-political prognosticator, opening his very first show on the liberal Air America radio network March 31, 2004.

    Well, as it turned out, George W. Bush didn’t go down in November. But Air America’s ratings did.

    The numbers are now in for Air America’s first year of broadcasting, and they aren’t good.

    For one thing, the network is only on the air in about 50 of the nation’s 285 radio markets. And in most of those, it is broadcast on small stations, often with weak signals. So it is impossible to compare Air America’s ratings to those of its conservative competitors, such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, who are heard on hundreds of stations.

    But we can compare them in at least one place — New York City.

    Last year, Franken, whose program airs on WLIB in New York, boasted that he was beating Limbaugh, who is heard on WABC.

    “We beat him,” Franken said of Limbaugh in June 2004. “The period we’re opposite Rush, we — we beat WABC, so we think we beat Rush.”

    Turns out that wasn’t the case. When the final ratings came in, Limbaugh remained unscathed.

    But there’s no doubt that Franken, aided by an astonishing hype campaign led by The New York Times, had a good start. In his first quarterly ratings, spring 2004 (made up of April, May and June), he won a 2.6 percent share of the audience of listeners age 25 to 54 — the most important group for radio advertisers — to Limbaugh’s 3.2 percent share.

    In summer 2004 (July, August and September), Franken did even better, winning a 2.8 percent share of the 25-to-54 audience against Limbaugh’s 3.2 percent. About that time, officials at WABC gave Air America credit for a decent showing.

    “They’re doing better than I expected,” Phil Boyce, the program director at WABC, told me last September. “Obviously there is a market for this in New York.”

    But then something happened. October came, and then November — months Franken might have been expected to do well, since the presidential campaign was reaching its final stage and his audience was almost beside itself with anti-Bush fervor. But his ratings in New York went down.

    When the fall 2004 (October, November and December) ratings came out, they revealed that Franken had pulled just a 1.8 percent share of the 25-to-54 audience — well behind Limbaugh’s 4.1 percent share.

    Boyce was a happy man.

    “Rush captured the election’s excitement,” Boyce said in January. “Franken didn’t.”

    Now we have ratings for January, February and March of this year, and they show Franken with a 1.9 percent share to Limbaugh’s 3.2 percent share.

    And that’s just Franken versus Limbaugh. Air America’s overall ratings in New York are far, far worse.

    The station on which it is heard, WLIB, used to broadcast a mix of Caribbean music and talk. In its last quarter before switching to Air America, it won 1.3 percent of the total audience in New York. Despite all the publicity, Air America is now actually drawing lower ratings than the old music format; in the most recent figures, Air America score a 1.2 percent share of the New York audience.

    And that is in true-blue New York City, where you might expect a liberal talk network to do well.

    Now it should be said that Air America is succeeding in a few places. It is going gangbusters, for example, in Portland, Ore. But its overall failure to mount a challenge to conservative talk radio raises an obvious question: Why?

    For one thing, many of the network’s hosts aren’t terribly good. While talented, they didn’t have any background in radio, and their passionate interest in politics wasn’t enough to make them polished radio performers. They’ve gotten better in the past year, but not that much better.

    Second, even though Air America officials firmly believe that their hosts are more civil than those hard-liners you hear on conservative talk radio, Air America has at times served up a pretty ugly message. Take the time in May of last year when host Randi Rhodes suggested that President Bush be assassinated the way Fredo Corleone was assassinated in The Godfather, Part II. Now Rhodes has done it again, bringing up the kill-Bush idea in a skit aired this week.

    Of course, part of the problem could be Franken’s inclination to refer to the president as a “moron,” an “idiot putz” and a “stupid schmuck.” Who knows?

    Whatever the problem, Air America, bolstered by some of the same investors who brought you the Democratic 527 groups, will soldier on. And maybe some day they’ll figure it out.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 04 May, 2005 10:38  

  • Well, the real important numbers are in. Air America increased their national ad rate this month as they sign more clients to do actual paid ads (as opposed to the commonly heard 'call 1-800' spots all over talk radio - the network gets zip until people call and order something. Then they get a percentage of sales.)

    Nobody is crying about the winter Arbitron book, even in NYC. An update on WROC-AM Rochester. The winter book figures released a few days ago for Rochester, NY shows that Air America affiliate doubled their audience share, mostly taking a small piece out of WHAM-AM (the 50kw primary news/talk station), and probably even more pieces out of public radio news/talk WXXI-AM. So their ratings are not flat anymore. The station is still towards the bottom of the ratings list for local stations, but station owner Entercom is happy just to see their numbers double on a 1,000 watt AM that they don't promote at all.

    The growth here is pretty typical for a new talk network. I suspect you'll see some talk shows done by the non-radio people eventually disappear or grow into something better than they are right now. I personally don't think Jerry Springer is an improvement for them, but maybe his "star quality" will bring listeners to the table.

    I think the weakest shows for them right now are Morning Sedition, which I see eventually replaced by local talent doing morning drive, and The Majority Report which seems heavy on the rhetoric and light on the entertainment.

    Mike Malloy is going to need to broaden his show as well - it gets replaced by Lionel in a lot of markets. Lionel is better.

    By Anonymous p dampier, at 05 May, 2005 08:25  

  • Good grief. You people still don't get it. Talk radio was created out of nothing. It was a groundswell, truly grassroots. Air America had to be hyped, and hyped, and fauned over, and plugged from every corner of the media industry, and it's still in the red.

    You've had the establishment media for 40+ years all to yourself, and you can't even leverage all that power just to compete with AM talk radio. You people are incompentent. And pathetic. No wonder you can't win elections without cheating.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 June, 2005 19:27  

  • Watch out, Neocons!


    Randi Rhodes, a major ratings powerhouse for drive time

    That would explain all the dopes on the road these days.

    By Blogger guinsPen, at 20 June, 2005 19:37  

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