Dick Morris and  Eileen McGann

Obama's liberal philosophy dictates that when the news is bad, shoot the messenger. The newest data from Arbitron, the company charged with measuring the size of radio audiences, suggests that listenership to hip hop, inner city, and minority radio has been overstated in the past and that the popularity of conservative talk radio has been under-reported.

This conclusion - ideologically inconvenient for Obama - comes from the company's decision to dispense with the Stone Age way it has been measuring radio audiences - by hand written diaries based on listener memory - with modern machines which automatically record what the person is listening to and for how long.

The opening barrage in Obama's efforts to reign in talk radio was fired by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week when its acting Chairman Michael J. Copps announced an investigation of Arbitron's radio measuring technology called the Portable People Meter. (Not to be confused with the Purple People Eater celebrated in song in the 1950s).

Arbitron is the company tasked with rating radio listenership. The equivalent of the Neilson television ratings, its measurements of audience share are revered like Scripture by station managers, owners, and advertisers. Traditionally, Arbitron relied on hand written diaries. Since the diaries were based on memory, they were often faulty. So Arbitron availed itself of new technology in launching its Portable People Meter (PPM) - a cell phone sized unit the listener wears on his or her belt which automatically notes what station they are tuning in and when they switch or stop.

The PPM measurements concluded that hip hop, urban rock, and minority-oriented radio stations reached fewer listeners and for shorter periods of time than the diaries had indicated. It found that talk radio had a larger listenership.

The left saw an ideological bias at work and the states of New York and New Jersey sued Arbitron alleging discrimination in its choice of the sample charged with wearing the PPMs. It said that the ratings agency, which presumably recruited its sample by phone, was under-representing people without landlines who used only cell phones and hence under-counted minorities.

Now the FCC is launching its own investigation.


Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

Dick Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of 2010: Take Back America. To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to www.dickmorris.com