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Station Owner Protests Arbitron Policy Change

Burns says making Total Line Reporting for subscribers only will change station ranking and hurt small stations

Owner and CEO of 3 Daughters Media stations Gary Burns is taking his protest of a new Arbitron policy up a notch.

We recently reported that Arbitron plans to make its Total Line Reporting, in which the ratings of simulcast stations are combined into one number, for subscribers-only beginning in 2014. Under the updated policy, only licensed subscribing stations “in good standing” will be eligible to combine audiences for their stations and Internet streams that are 100% simulcast on a single reporting line in Arbitron ratings reports and data services.

The idea of combining the numbers is to help stations market their stations.

Burns recently protested the change to Arbitron CEO Sean Creamer, saying the change will result in a different application ratings methodology for stations in the same survey and will change the station rankings. “Stations most likely to incur damages as a result of this new policy are stations with limited coverage, stations owned by small business and minorities. Measurement of radio listening in metro markets should be subject to the same methodology and rules for every station qualified to be in the measured market,” said Burns in a letter he shared with Radio World.

Now, Burns has taken his concerns to the FCC, the DOJ and the FTC.

Specifically, he’s saying the planned acquisition of Arbitron by Nielsen “will have unintended consequences in the marketplace.” As the DOJ and FTC review that deal, Burns asks the regulators to require “all measured entities be treated equally” without regard to whether such a company is an Arbitron subscriber and to consider “all of the other ramifications of the merger” before allowing the pending $1.26 billion transaction to close.

The 3 Daughters Media owner also questions whether the FCC should use Arbitron Radio Metros to define a market when reviewing station transactions and determining how many stations one entity can control in a market. That definition “puts too much power in the hands of the rating company” as well as to Arbitron subscribers, who “decide which counties are included in the market’s definition.”

Arbitron had no comment.