ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Nielsen company has sued radio host Bubba The Love Sponge Clem, claiming the DJ paid a radio listener who was participating in a radio survey to inflate his show's ratings.
Among the allegations in the federal lawsuit filed Thursday: fraud; conspiracy to defraud; violating the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Practices Act; and interfering with business and contractual relations between Nielsen and Beasley, the company that owns the station that carries Clem's show. The lawsuit says the listener — who is not named in the lawsuit — eventually contacted Nielsen and told the company about Clem.
Nielsen said in a statement Friday it does not comment on pending litigation.
"Nielsen is committed to maintaining the highest standards of data and panel integrity and will continue to act swiftly to ensure that those standards are upheld and protected," the statement said.
A phone call to Clem rang unanswered. On Oct. 6, several days after the allegations were made, Clem said during a news conference that he was "humbled and embarrassed" about the incident and said the claims were true.
"I take full responsibilities for what happened and subsequently the consequences that probably are here forward," he said. "There's no excuses, there's nobody to blame, I am the person to blame and I'll accept whatever happens moving forward."
In the lawsuit, Nielsen said Clem learned that a listener's acquaintance was participating in Nielsen's ratings survey. Clem then met with the acquaintance several times and offered to pay $300 a month if the listener helped increase his ratings, and a bonus of up to $400 a month if a target result was reached.
Normally, the identities of the listeners participating in the survey are anonymous. Nielsen calculates ratings by putting listening devices that resemble pagers on people.
Nielsen alleges Clem sent the listener texts, telling him to stay quiet. "U have to PROMISE NOT TO SAY A WORD ... This could ruin me."
Clem also told the listener to switch to other stations to avoid suspicion but told him not to tune to 102.5, which airs Clem's rival, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says after a ratings drop, Clem contacted the listener and implored him to try harder: "Please buddy. Please. I'm paying u!!!"
The DJ also allegedly had radios shipped to the listener's home.
"Bubba Clem boasted to the Cooperating Panelist that he had detailed working knowledge of the PPM device which included knowledge of how to circumvent the PPM's motion-sensing technology," the lawsuit says. "He described that by using certain tricks the Cooperating Panelist could make it appear that he was listening to Bubba Clem's show even when the Cooperating Panelist was not carrying the PPM device."
Nielsen also said in the lawsuit that Clem may have tried to influence other panelists.
Earlier in the month, Beasley said it would require Clem and his staff to undergo ratings compliance training. The lawsuit says Clem was suspended for eight days from his live broadcast.
Clem provides syndicated programming as an independent contractor to WBRN 98.7 in Tampa. In Florida, he's also carried on stations in Fort Myers, Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Ocala, West Palm Beach and Melbourne.