KLSX-FM to check ARB findings on KLAX-FM

KLSX-FM will send a team of inspectors back to Arbitron’s East Coast processing headquarters on Jan. 19 and 20 to examine diaries from the fall ratings book, which showed an obscure Spanish-language station with nearly identical call letters becoming the top-ranked radio outlet in Los Angeles (Daily Variety, Jan. 6).

Jim Freeman, general manager of the classic rock station that carries Howard Stern’s top-rated morning show, expressed doubts yesterday over Hispanic station KLAX-FM’s spectacular 165% rise in the ratings from a 2 share in the summer book to a 5.3 share in the latest Arbitron sample.

The Spanish-language station changed its call letters from KSKQ to KLAX following the summer book, during a period in which Stern held his heavily hyped “funeral” in Hollywood for the KLOS-FM morning team of Mark and Brian.

KLAX’s extraordinary leap in the ratings was due in large part to an unprecedented 267% surge for its morning show, which went from its summer average of a 1.2 (under the old call letters) to a 4.4.

Stern’s KLSX show, meanwhile, remained No. 1 for the second straight book but dropped to a 6.0 in the fall from a 6.4 in the summer. Mysteriously, runner-up KLOS’ 6-10 a.m. average held relatively steady with a 5.5 (vs. a 5.6 in the summer).

Freeman suspects a problem in the key-punch process, noting the “S” and the “A” that separate the two stations are next to each other on the keyboard.

“I’m not saying it was anything malicious,” he said. “It’s just that after punching in (ratings data) for seven hours, somebody can get a little dingy.”

Freeman, who is making the trip to personally oversee the inspection of the diaries by an outside firm, acknowledged there is a remote chance that Arbitron could have handled the material properly.

“In which case I will say ‘fine’ and wish (the Spanish-language competitor) the best of luck,” he said.

On his morning show yesterday, Stern blasted his sworn enemy, the Federal Communications Commission–which has already imposed heavy fines on broadcasters that air his program as well as his parent company, Infinity Broadcasting Corp.–for awarding the Hispanic station call letters that were so similar to KLSX.

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